Post Road Magazine #24

A Love Letter for LOVE, AN INDEX (McSweeney's Poetry Series)

Traci Brimhall


I often read books I enjoy and admire, but rarely do I find a book I can love, keep close, want to return to a dozen times to understand how it knows me. I found all of that in a book I was given after a reading—a copy of Rebecca Lindenberg's Love, an Index. All the bookstore employees were reading it and thought I should have a copy as well. Bookstore employees have a talent for picking out a gift. "A man disappears while hiking a volcano. The woman who loves him is left haunted—and still loving him," the book jacket says, but that can't quite communicate the frightful presentness of the book—the past is still living in it. I first read it at a bus stop in the rain and that didn't feel like enough. I've read it four times since, and I'm still hungry for it.

"I want to gather everything into this poem's now, but can't" Rebecca Lindenberg says in the title poem of her book. If everything isn't gathered in this poem, it comes close. It knits a love story from "Ululate," in which "there have always been cultures that paid women to mourn, to join together to make a voice big enough for that much feeling," to "Volcanoes" that in poems that reveal "I thought I understood your longing—it looked so much like mine." Incorporating memories, Greek gods, questions, fragments, facts, and cities, the Index becomes a form, which, as Adrienne Rich said, is "part of the strategy—like asbestos gloves . . . allow[ing] me to handle materials I couldn't pick up barehanded." Love and grief are both unwieldy and dangerous things, but this catalog of desire tries to contain it all, crossreferencing some entries with others and creating an intertextual conversation with poets from Sappho to Anne Carson.

This intertextuality and crossreferencing exists throughout the book. In the poem "Catalog of Ephemera," Lindenberg writes, "You give me lime blossoms, but not for what they symbolize." In the following poem, "The Language of Flowers," the significance of the lime blossoms is said to be "Fornication." This book, like any good love, teaches me how to be with it. Her poem "Illuminating" references Medieval illuminated manuscripts' practice of leaving margins around the text for the master scribe to correct and for the reader to leave their interpretations in the margins. White space was meant to invite a conversation that could not be resolved, but which others could partake in. Physical space becomes more than a historical reference or part of a form, but a place the reader is invited, and perhaps even what comes through "an open door/opening." In her footnotes and the use of Facebook status updates in poems, form yields abundance as a stay against grief. In her lyric poems, the beloved is alive again and forever.

"Just because the world is beautiful doesn't mean it will satisfy us," Lindenberg writes in the Index, but that doesn't stop her from showing us the beauty of the flowers and their true names, "the green/all green things aspire to be," spring's perpetual return, its ruthless insistence on life.

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