Lauren Becker

Somewhere He Ached

This short piece by Lydia Copeland is one that gently insists upon being read more than once.   Her skill with description is remarkable, from the colors inspiring the subject’s wife to the feel of the water rushing around him.

The ache to which Copeland refers in the title resonates from the first sentence to the last.  “His knee was a swollen valentine pulsing beneath black waders.”  The sentence, visual and visceral, conveys the dull, constant pain that emanates from the man’s knee, his physical surroundings, and his being.

She provides context in the sense of a moment as lived and as perceived by others, referring to the before and after.  Copeland’s story is a quiet and exceptional study in description and lyricism. 

Ghost Koi

In “Ghost Koi,” Hemmings deftly describes the desperate aftermath of an affair from a woman’s perspective.  His ability to write with such knowledge of this woman is a testament to his unique ability to experiment with point of view to great success.

In the second paragraph, Hemmings informs the reader of the reasons for the woman’s love for this apparently unexceptional man, careless of her feelings for him.    “She loved him because he was not a very tired or complex animal.”  Her description of him as her “invisible lover” is evidence that she has idealized him far beyond what he truly is; she creates a compulsive commitment to a ghost who exists only in her mind.

The parallel that Hemmings creates between the woman and the object of her affair against the interactions of the male and female koi works on a number of levels – in the distinction between the male koi as independent while female remains passive and, finally in the consumption of the male fish by the female.  This seems to be the sole manner that will release the woman from the inexplicable hold that her former lover holds over her.

Hemmings’ last line is a true beauty:  “She so badly wanted to believe it.”  This is a story that will stay with me as a contemplation of the tenuous nature of love and the extremes to which it may reach.


“She combs yesterday through her locks.”  This powerful, memorable first line creates a temporal juxtaposition that continues throughout the poem.  Benitez plays with time, the experience of the woman-child batted about like a balloon that bridges past, present and future.

I was most moved by the details of the poem and the way it unveils itself to be, quite simply, a commentary on the fear and ambivalence of moving into a certain adulthood manifested by the commitment she has made to share her life with another.  Benitez uses surreal images to authentic effect in describing that eminently relatable step.

Fair Warning

In Fair Warning, Amy David warns potential lovers that she will bring no luck to them.  In doing so, she challenges them to love her anyway.  Despite herself, she entices by promising that she will bring them things that no other woman will:  humor and occasional thoughtfulness in the form of silly socks and the lover’s favorite candy.

David’s warning is universal.  “No man” begins the first three stanzas to dramatic effect, establishing a cadence to the poem and an immovable knowledge to the writer.

David is nimble in her use of metaphor and contrast. "I am not a flame but the candle dripping wax.  I am not a sad note, but the hammer that hits it."  The caution that she demands of potential suitors precludes choice on their part.  By the end of the poem, the reader is warned, though perhaps not so fairly. 

- Lauren Becker

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