Randall Brown Commentary Foundling Review

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Self Eclipse

In an eclipse of the moon, the earth’s shadow makes the moon disappear. In John Middlebrook’s “Self-Eclipse,” not only has the speaker lost that which he used to gaze upon, but even the shadow itself has made other plans.  Those stanza-ending similes—like rings in an ancient tree, like the mouths of the mute, like a fellow traveler—hint at transformation, the way this loss has changed the speaker into someone unlike the one who existed before. The speaker enacts the past—eyes circling, arms opening—but it’s all emptiness now.  What the speaker finds—a mirror and the Self reflected back—made me think of Lacan’s mirror phase, that moment the infant views his/her reflection and imagines that image as Other, a perfect Self, out of bounds, capable of impossible things. My knowledge of Lacan is kind of pop psychology like, but that mirroring, I think, might be how one learns to love in Lacan’s world, searching for that Other to fill the gap between infant and reflection. Middlebrook’s final “I am in my own way” hints at a number of meanings, and I like the reading of “in my own way” as when one says, “I would’ve passed, but that car was in my way.” The poem evokes the way we loved before we got in our ways, when put our whole selves into it, as if we had nothing to lose.


My own daughter spends endless time comparing her own hands to my wife’s, and perhaps she imagines her own hands gaining in definition and rings, and that sense of time and age brings about a hopefulness rather than dread. Such is the world of Rae Spencer’s “Longing,” a poem that captures the childhood of Itsy Bitsy Spider, Lassie Comes Home, the private brook, the yearning for “whatever awaits / atop the waterspout.”

The Husband Across The Hall 

Andrew Roe’s piece begins with a simple statement: “There is a husband” and ends with “ringless ring finger” and something else.  The narrator knows the wife exists and the couples who incrementally get louder surely must exist also. It ends in the future, in a dream of a husband who isn’t. It is, among many things, about looking and seeing and wondering. I love this line: “Once I saw him drop a sack of groceries, the food and packages spilling out like bad thoughts.” People in the world become what we dream they might be; it is almost, one might think, better that way.

Carl Jung’s Epiphany Cakes: A Memoir in Recipe Form

I sensed the “real” behind this piece, although I wasn’t familiar with Jung and Freud and Sabina. I’m drawn to the complexity of the association with the Epiphany, the cake itself, the history of Jung, of Freud, and Sabina, the “lucky child” for whom the baker hides a token. “A token of what?” might be one question that surfaces throughout. A recipe, tells me, can also be a medical prescription or a means to a desired end (“a recipe for success”); it’s from recipere, “to take,” as in “take two of these and call me in the morning.” Of the many lines that stick, there’s this one, “From this paper both Freud and I borrowed liberally, usually without attribution.”


Behlor Santi’s narrator begins with an address to Mama-San, whose Japanese stings the narrator’s ears.  At the end, the narrator tells her family who refuses to eat her Japanese food, “Love songs can be sappy. But we always love them against our better judgment.”  The husband ‘s love of “the multicultural vibe” and his post-travel, post-coital expression might sum up the contemporary idea of that age-old American idea of the melting pot. Identity is a far more complex, inter-connected, lonely journey than any recipe for integration might lead us to believe. “Like soda?” the son asks, when his mother tells him about sappy love songs. “Yes,” she answers. Just like that.

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