Kindra Austin’s Twelve continues where Constant Muses left off, rich and intense.
After having read Constant Muses, I eagerly awaited the release of Kindra Austin’s Twelve. I expected more of the imagery of Muses, with its cigarette smoke and endless cocktails. While those common threads are there, Twelve favors the much more potent darkness of decay and memento mori. In Twelve, Austin further exposes the connection between the corporeal and spiritual that she began to explore in Muses, through an emotional dissection of the year of grieving on her mother’s death. And I felt it was a grieving ‘on’, not ‘over’: she rests upon each painful moment of remembrance and exposes it to us fully, unapologetically. It is that straightforward voice, plainly truthful, that compelled my own visceral response—and while I cannot fully describe in words how I felt, I do know that I was hit hard. Austin forced me to look on the truth of death and how it can rip, how it can physically fragment those left behind.
“Make me a whole person,” she writes in “An Emotionless Affair,” referring to the cracked-open ribs, bleeding hearts, vomit-stained sheets, bile and pus, immolated bones and disembodied flesh of the other poetry in the collection. No therapy can put together what death has rent. Still, Austin knows she can find a semblance of whole-ness in the act of writing, even as she despairs the loss of her mother-muse: “Who am I, if not a writer?” she asks rhetorically, in the poem “Your Absence is a Burglar.” “Mother what am I supposed to do? I’m so fucking tired of writing about you./But who am I, if not a writer?”
“Anyway, Always,” demonstrates the exorcistic role writing plays in Austin’s processing of death and steps toward healing:
Mother mine, I know your truths; yours are mine,
and I will defend them,
I will make your ghosts and mine scream in terror.
Austin is her mother’s champion, but there is another who champions Austin. She prefaces her work: “But dark as my days have been, there is one who keeps me tethered to the light…” There are bright moments among the desperate ones. These are found in “For My Truest of Loves,” “You Remind Me,” and the nuptial “Wedding Poem” all of which celebrate her own treasured daughter. On many levels, dark and light, I saw the redemptive qualities of the fierce love between mother and daughter.
This book has overwhelmed me, it has slayed me with its truths. Those were the thoughts that came to mind after consuming her book. I don’t use the word “consume” lightly: I ruminated as I read; her thoughts were nourishment for that part of me that ponders death. Yet I felt as if my heart had been splayed open: I didn’t know if I should cry, or just bear witness. I admired and wondered yet again at Austin’s willingness to reveal herself, her assuredness that her readers would catch those emotions and cradle them. That we could hold space for them, keep them safe, disperse them or preserve them.
Mariah Voutilainen, co-editor at Indie Blu(e), writes poetry and prose about all manner of things at www.reimaginingthemundane.wordpress.com.