Carmen Germain

THE OLD REFUSALS, Carmen Germain, Moon Path Press, P.O. Box 445, Tillamook, OR 97141, 2019, 64 pages, $16 paper,

In November, 2019, it was my privilege to read on the Foothills Writers Series in Port Angeles with poets Karen Whalley and Carmen Germain. Although I had crossed paths with Germain once or twice, this was my first real introduction to her work, and it has been my pleasure to get to know her better through her poems. Rereading The Old Refusals this morning I had a sense of a long conversation about books she is reading, places she’s traveled to, paintings she’s studied. Also a visual artist, Germain brings a painter’s love of color and line to every poem. (Her sonnet, “A Coupling” — a sample image: “your hand a bloated pomegranate” — made me want to get out my journal and see if I couldn’t condense my week in a Paris apartment into something that adept.)

According to the notes, this poem uses “techniques of collage and cut-ups from random sources” (61). It made me think of a surrealist painting. It blows my mind.

The doomed queen is outwardly stately

clustering her subjects by the shipwreck–
the off-duty singer, the glassblower,
the waiter who comes to clear the plates.

Full of elegant repetitions,
she has the grin of an adman,
but no one believes the crisis is over.

Even experts lack expertise
and anyone listening in the hold
knows the flash drive’s concealed in the cake.

How at the click of a button,
can opener, batteries, and flashlight appear.
Tins of soup and bottled water,

tranquil trickling sounds,
mechanics emerging from the pirate ship
like coins spilling from a purse.

Underneath the sea bed, buildings and rusty spoons.
Evidence of so many busy street corners
so many meals on the fly.

-Carmen Germain