A Yes-or-No Answer
Jane Shore
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Buy *A Yes-or-No Answer: Poems* by Jane Shore online

A Yes-or-No Answer: Poems
Jane Shore
Houghton Mifflin
80 pages
March 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Shore is one of those rare gems who has found the words that bridge past and present, embracing both lost loved ones and a daughter stepping into a rapidly changing world.

As familiar as a tattered family album with a few shocking color prints of a modern young woman sporting vintage clothing, Shore mines her New Jersey Jewish past with poignant grace, missing her mother, reminded of those small details that bring the dead back to life, if only for an instant:

“as though it were perfectly natural
to be wide awake at 2 a.m….

we’d talk deep into the night, like diplomats
agreeing to a kind of peace.”
            (My Mother’s Chair)
My favorite poem in the collection is evocative of a loving childhood, tinged with the reality of a chaotic world scarred with jarring inequity:
“Every morning, I unbend
their wire limbs and lay them
back in their tiny box where
they sleep all day like vampires.
Single file, they descend
the mineshaft of my unconscious,
with only a pick axe and hard hat
beam to light their path.

until, like the Disappeared,
they’ll all vanish without a trace,
leaving me to worry all alone
in bed with their empty coffin.”
            (Trouble Dolls)
But that teenage daughter hovers on the edges, proudly dragging her mother into the blinding light of the present, where the old ways and old things become treasured wardrobe additions:
“Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring…

Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into…

Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she’s a Shiva of tangled sleeves.”
            (Shopping Urban)
Of course that daughter steps stealthily through her mother’s heart, making the usual assumptions of youth, where everything is in black and white:
“Reading the diary I kept when I was twelve,
my twelve-year-old feels entitled to the girl
I used to be, my past’s her private property.
At twelve,
I kissed the boys, then kissed my dolls goodbye.
At twelve, she traded her bath toys
for a razor.
‘“God, Mom, you were such a baby!”’
Shaking her head, she turns the page.”
            (My Daughter Reads My Old Diary)
Haunted by the faded images of family stories and remembered moments, family ghosts march through softly lit rooms, as present in death as they were in life. As comfortable as an old friend, Shore is one of those rare wordsmiths who invite others into her life, who shares poignant memories, encouraging others to do the same, linking family from generation to generation in a collection of poems that is as inclusive as it is revelatory.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2008

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