Love Enough by Ann Filemyr

Love-Enough-COVER-draft-webcopyInstantly, Filemyr submerges the reader into a world where love has been shaken from it’s expected, generic references and flung far into an odd, unexpected realm where, “A Child Falls in Love with a Storm,” “A Man Falls in Love with a Fork,” “A Lynx Falls in Love with a Farmer,” and “A Woman Falls in Love with Her Shadow.” These are just a few of the poems that comprise the first section, “Fall Awake.”

In Filemyr’s imaginative recreations of love, love is transformed into a wild, ever-present entity animating the hidden and the inorganic, as well as magic-filled moments nearly missed. It’s a linguistic feat to stretch the word love in the ways Filemyr does, as only a poet can and must, and wholly necessary due to “the great red muscle,” “under the curved rib bone,” straining against the restrictions of the English language which is so very much unlike Sanskrit (which boasts ninety-six words for love), or Persian (which contains eighty), or even Greek (with three).

Love with all of its histories and intricacies, has become just another four-letter word.

But here, Filemyr sets love free to behave in any way that it must: revolutionary, ordinary, sacred, and surprising as in, “My Girl Falls in Love with a Ferris Wheel.”

Written in free verse, these prose poems in Filemyr’s fifth book engage stanzas as scenes. “Scrapwood starched by the sun ignites easily./We sit beside the solstice fire. You pick/the stiff hair of your guitar. I read poety./What could be more lonely/than the moon/surrounded by an ice halo,/or the tired faces of our mothers?” Many of the poems are complete with characters who undergo change, including Filemyr herself. Poems that even wander at times further into the territory of fiction, borrowing such elements as plot and place.

The title poem, “Love Enough,” at thirty-one pages in length, is haunting, transcendent and nothing less than a masterpiece. “Catalog of disasters,” it begins, as any majestic and epic love poem ought to do and continues, “Sacred groves are felled to build the king’s fleet./Sailors nail magnetic north to Polaris./Colonial powers criss-cross the cold Atlantic./Waves batter and crumble against the hull./Your African ancestors are forced in chains./My Irish ancestors are locked below the deck.”
The transitions from one stanza to the next echo and bend bridging history—American history, the history of this couple spanning three decades, the history of their families, the history of each one as an individual. “The falling forward of a thousand births/generation upon generation/just so we could meet.”

“Love Enough” is a lyrical catalogue of memories enduring death and violence, tormented by racism and homophobia, where still, in the midst of a world that wants to wage war against them and their love, sweetness survives and thrives. Love is fortified every single day. Repetition of language is used to spiral in and with each refrain creates intimacy.
Filemyr and her beloved transverse a time where their love is a target, an enemy force to be destroyed “in this segregated city./It is 1982. Reagan is President.” They are sought out by white teenage boys and Black police officers; witness a Klan march in their town. Lit matches are dropped down the back of a blouse and guns are always aiming, ready—and yet Filemyr proclaims, “We are women. We love each other.”

It is that simple and yet it is never that simple.

Or is it?

Filemyr tethers her poems to the physicality of the body where the body is an instrument, a record keeper, a diary, a soft bloom seeded with ancestors. The body is a touchstone, durable yet delicate, where love is remembered and transmutes from noun to verb. “Let me love you tonight, this long night,/as darkness closes us in,/cold slips beneath the door,/claw of moon beneath a star,/we made it this far.”

The arc of their time spent together, dovetailed with our nation’s history, the personal and the political, takes them through decades of danger, threats and doubt delivering them at last to a marriage ceremony, their own, “on the golden anniversary/of King’s, I have a Dream, speech. Finally/legal after all these years.”

“Love Enough” concludes with the insight of Filemyr and her beloved, “Side by side:/sweet, tart/dark, pale-/we can be/all that we are/and still be loved.” To her readers, she offers this last stanza as if it were a balm, “We have not forgotten you/who suffer the world over,/for you, we refuse to give up/stubbornly enacting our simple belief:/to conquer fear/we can love enough.”

Love Enough is available from Red Mountain Press

Jamie Figueroa is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has been published in various literary journals including Split Oak PressThe Santa Fe Literary ReviewThe Yellow Medicine ReviewFlash: Internationalekleksographia and Sin Fronteras. Jamie teaches creative writing at New Mexico School for the Arts. She is a recipient of the Truman Capote Scholarship as well as the Jack Kent Cooke graduate scholar award.

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