HOW GOD IT IS TO BE ORDINARY
Gabrielle Joy Lessans, [a go], Ornithopter Press, 2022
Reviewed by Gabrielle Joy Lessans
[a go] by Gabrielle Joy Lessans (Ornithopter Press, 2022) is a spellbinding labyrinth of moss, salt, and starry wombs. As Lessans meditates among the reeds, skips stones with beloveds, and witnesses "jewels of human contact," (48) we watch her fall in love with life's brilliance and shadow. [a go] calls currents of light among the detritus of crumbling ecosystems and veins of raw stone. With sharp language, Lessans pierces a hole in the strata, mapping "a golden trace of our orbit." (23)
At once an aria to home and hearth, [a go] is also a symphony for the cosmos within our bones, an exploration of interior topography—gorges and glaciers of memory. These poems are stratified and unending; there's no beginning or finale, yet we find comfort in the stir and sway.
Lessans conjures a stunning landscape through which we wander: "letting lupine line the entrails of ancient conversation yellow trumpets mark the edges / of a drawbridge." (10) She also sculpts text as image; words ripple and drift from page to page, creating syntactical seams and ridges.
We meander and twist alongside her; we fell and fall like confettied rivers and ashen aspens. And Lessans is our unabashed guide. She plays with language like instruments, strumming and slapping their sounds into canyons: "tender tender tinder ember tendril tambor timbre thimble kettle / drum / clapper / tambourine." (52–53)
[a go] begs not only to be read, but spoken, sung, and held close to the chest like a flame. Here, the physical world meets the more-than-material in propulsive rhythm and polyphonic play. Harmonic freedom steeps in color and texture, depth and complexity.
This is a book of bridges and doorways to cross with kindreds. Opening the first door opens many, revealing durations and enduring: "I was a doe once I / was a daughter / off red run rivers." (6) Lessans crosses thresholds with us, where together we become multiple. She transfigures language into embodied spell where the mind goes to play, where the body heals, and where the self is continuously becoming.
She writes, "we wax delight in / red patches," (57) reminding us there is rapture in living, evolving. There's splendor in the luminous Now. And yes, there's hope and kinship even in the darkest channels–"how god it is to be ordinary" (44). Ultimately, Lessans urges us to press onward and cast ourselves as rupture, promising "the smallest ripple will do." (11)