I woke up this morning thinking about Sleepwalker, Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s book of poems, considering what to say about it, wondering how to find the words sufficiently to honor it. This is a book about grief, about the unthinkable loss of a child who takes his life, about how to live with that. I had just finished reading a book about homes blown to smithereens by a hurricane. Lying in bed I pictured a house, her home, flying into the air, spinning about and coming apart, forgetting that was the image on the cover of her book. With each poem in this book, she drives a stake into the ground, holding the house in place, keeping it from flying apart.
There is heartbreak throughout, the chaos of emotion intricately presented. In a poem about shipwreck (“What Every Mother Hopes For”) a boy miraculously survives and comes home. In another poem, in an orgy of anger (“Gone: A Dream”) the boy leaves home, the mother watching from a second story window, wanting to protect him, to help him, “I want to jump from the window after him / but I’m tangled in the curtains.” Helplessness pervades the collection. In the title poem, “Sleepwalker,” the mother connects–”every night I give him a kiss / to wear on a chain around his neck”–while realizing the separation, a gulf she cannot cross–”I am on the other side of his journey.”
And the discovery, in “The Second Worst Thing,” rendered in agonizing minimal detail:
The police took
I don’t know what else
Along with heartbreak (a thud deep in a mother’s womb, as Sienkiewicz describes it), there is the endless return and re-examination, and there is no answer, no reply. There is only continuation. “Once you let go, the body takes over,” she writes. Nothing matters, and tomorrow comes too soon.
Love is an ache. In these marvelous poems, the reader aches with her.
Published by Finishing Line Press