otated in a way that reflects the authors' distinct perception of things. Elsewhere, from “Tracery”: “The clockwork/train runs/on a circular track, between/nowhere and nowhere else,” and "Doors with no apparent connection/between rooms dominate/the homes in the city perched/on a cliff/overlooking the sea” invite us into a desolate cosmos where nature can be either a friend or foe - or even an indifferent force: "rain, no rain, it's all the same" Now onto the ghazals. Ghazals originated in Arabic poetry, and can be thought of as akin to sonnets in the sense that the form dictates a certain structure, and even meter. In the case of the ghazal, usually the structure consists of couplets, around five or seven, but sometimes as many as fifteen. A repeated word or phrase appears and the end of both lines of the first couplet and at the end of the second line in each subsequent couplet. Rhymes or near-rhymes are also present. Michelle and Sheila took a more elastic approach to ghazals, however - they took a stringent, some would even say stifling, structure and broke it apart to mold a new form, one that breathes a bit more but maintains the integrity of the original form. We will start with Ghazal Four, which was the first one I earmarked in the book when I initially read it. The poem itself is a dense thicket of abstract imagery alternating with tangible impressions, layered with fevered philosophizing akin to a Nietschze or Hiedegger. In this poem, I get a sense of weariness and wariness about one's own identity, and accumulating sensations of self-doubt ("To all my half selves below the deck/Are mirrors of inadmissible distance."). This is further reflected in the "pulsating mirror" that "sputtered questions to oneself." That said,
"parity co-exists with butterflies," possibly pointing to identity feeling assured by doubt, paradoxically. With Ghazal Sixteen, the identity crisis persists, but with a twist. It seems now that the poetic persona is almost becoming aggressive toward the emptiness imposed by existence: "Master of thorns and inscrutable enigmas/Pounce on psyche's own distorted cinemascope." After all, the authors insistently intone, "We're running toward extinction with scissors clenched/In a death grip leveraging the high points." This is not to say that existence is entirely meaningless: "The austere stars spread across the skylight./Majesty can never quite be contained," signaling that identity is subsumed by something more boundless than ourselves. Again, though, the looking glass motif features: "My appetite appears in the hungry mirror/Streaked with pretense, texture, overthought, and informal grace." Now identity seems to have veered toward an overconfidence, or self-loathing, even. In a departure from the identity musings, Ghazal Forty-two is a tense meditation on nature's sometimes tenuous relationship to humans and the surroundings constructed by humans: "As the furniture collapsed, we made bowlfuls of Summer in a retrofit, just right for pinlight." (lines 5-6) "Coins wrinkle water when interrupting the smooth face Of laketop burning at the parting of waters scarce." (lines 15-16) And yet, as always, nature subverts human ego: "Caresses occur when souls leave keening to The crowns of the trees, nestling atop leaves" (lines 23-24) "Amended sacrifice litters the daylight; Nighttime stages her name in front of a crowd." (lines 27-28) And then there is reconciliation, with a humorous bite:
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