Sono Nis Press, 1985. ISBN: 0-919203-84-1. 6 x 9, 104 pages. $6.95
Mythic and dionysiac poetry, as well as the bittersweet “M.L.S.”, a portrait of two years spent in the gold-mining town of Hedley. Once fantastically rich, Hedley now lies at the bottom of the socio-economic heap.
The Eleusinian mysteries, from which Rhenisch evidently takes his title, are the rites in celebration of Demeter and Persephone, the Greek deities of earth and the seasons. Rhenisch’s poetry uses women and nature a great deal to create a world a little beyond the everyday, a place of feeling and idea and event in which humans are conected to the earth and the elements. A rhapsodical vision creates many of these poems; some are explicit allegories, as “Thursday Night,” in which a poem comes walking up out of the tomato field and dumps itself on the poet’s desk. A surreal quality reveals itself also in poem on memory: the bizarre and the fragmented qualities of a photograph album, mysterious and grotesque, are reduced and explained, yet also emphasized and expanded upon. This creates a disturbing sense of a life past and remote and still able, also, to trouble the present. Alan Thomas, Canadian Book Review Annual
SECOND SONG FOR THE MOON
The ocean rolls against my shore,
a grey pool of light.
Days push through to me across the water,
low flying birds, storm:
gulls rise up before me,
thin white flecks of earth,
screaming out of the light.
They are ash, anger.
If night were to come to me out of water
and if she were to hold her breath and say
I am death, I am darkness , I could shrug now,
and say yes, I know, we have drowned long ago,
there are only dreams, this earth
that ripples and sways beneath our feet—
but what use is this language now we are swimming
where dreams have come clear in light?
Of light I know nothing
except it is twin of darkness
and is also pain.
The point at which we could still
turn back is gone
and the way back is lost;
all time is now:
of clarity I know nothing.
I don’t live in memory:
I want to hold my thought down to one thing
it blows up around me—
a world I would have never dreamed:
it has dreamed itself out of nothing
and hovers over that first thought
like a gull over grey waves,
its wings folding night,
a swirl of sea.
Dark shapes rise out of the salt
into streaming air,
as still as hope—
and with the same bewilderment;
I cannot hold them to any form,
except the power deep within them,
flowing around them,
such as the earth
enclosing a man’s heart with her body.
Only in the light are we men:
we don’t know the dogs
that howl in our bones, restless under the moon,
the moon scattering them like leaves,
across its seething flesh, this
swaying, love-sick body.