It's not every lifetime you receive a book that is a valentine, a thousand thousand flowers brimming with blossom and fisted with bud, a hand held out to hold yours, an eyewink twinkle sparkle.
I just finished reading echolalia, by Dan Waber. It's not that I haven't read it before. I've read many of the poems as they were in process, and I remember helping Dan to order the poems in the manuscript. This is a ridiculous detail, but I remember what I was wearing on the day we worked on the assembly of the collection. My college sweatshirt. It was cold that day. We taped the poems to the wall of the hallway, ate something (probably rice) out of blue bowls, and sat crouched in the hall doing our editorial work. We made connections, refused a few poems entry into the groupings, took them all off the wall, and the manuscript was sent off to the publisher. I forgot about most of the poems until yesterday, at the dentist's office, when I began reading them again. Did I really help put them into this order?
It's humbling to know that I am so loved, that my words are the words Dan chose to snug his words against. He often says that I am his favorite poet, and I have such a hard time believing it, the same way a woman never believes it when a man says that her body is beautiful. Our inner critics are strict.
The poems are written as echoes of my words. He's taken text messages, poems, fragments of poems, hastily scrawled notes, and used them all to weave his poems. The collection is a mix of pain and beauty, of love and loss, and some of the lines are so prescient now that they made me cry:
from Your Name:
Your father's name is Glenn.
You'll imagine there's nothing he's scared of.
You'll be as wrong as a rocket off course.
The first poem in the book starts with a sketch of the self:
I have never been what you might call your
If you know Dan, truer words were never written. From there, the poems paint days spent in the car toward and away, sizzle in pans of garlic and onion, rest in lush summer breezes, and watch a whole lot of my rump. Am I embarrassed? No. I am reminded that love is all, that love is triumphant, that it is impossible to write a decent review of a book written by the love of your life without it sounding cliche. echolalia snugs words against words, makes a rich stew of the spicy and the bland. What else is there to love but to dissolve completely, to be remembered, to say "Yes, yes, yes."