In Stranger, Laura Sims enters the territory of the irreconcilable, where the intimacy that lies deepest in us—”Alive with its absence”—remains event or entity that “Dissent cannot undo.” Yet Sims responds to the necessary and unbearable dilemma of loss with the revivifying intimacies of language. “There is no such thing as a copy,” the poet rightly insists, and yet her lucidity plumbs, recalcitrant and fierce, into experience that we all know, or will. There is no more adept or trustworthy guide into this terrain.
“Only that which does not cease to hurt remains in memory,” says Nietzsche. That’s not to say that we can’t remember comfort or love, but it might be to say that such things have to be stung into our minds by comfort’s failures, love’s exits. “No one’s gonna save your life,” sings Wire’s Colin Newman; too true, but maybe someone will remember you. And yet even as memory preserves us, its inevitable elements of blank ensure that death retains an ever-painful (occasionally laughable) strangeness. In and with those elements, Laura Sims has written these memorable elegiac shards.
A mother’s illness and early death is only the beginning of the story of Stranger, Laura Sims’ second collection. This is a death whose presence and particulars are felt and inscribed, and which achieves an agency, a purview, a resistance. We feel the loss from all angles, even as Sims’ episodic, quicksilver narrative moves up and through a mother’s life and its incompletion, her apprehension in the face of death, a surviving child’s guilt and the adult child’s attempts at comprehension of who/what the mother is, now that she’s gone. In the end there is a hopeful hopelessness in approaching Eternity. Laura Sims’ delicacy and agility are equal to her forbearance, and all are up to the remarkable task of recounting a life and afterlife.