Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Review: Bone Water by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

 reviewed by Jennifer E Bradpiece

It’s raining. Kelsey Bryan-Zwick’s voice crackles like fire. Not comfortable flames in the fireplace but a controlled burn heading straight for the nape of your neck, then searing through your spine. 

Outside, the rain falls gently. In “Self-portrait -after an Epidural,” the narrator admits they “only ever weep / when it is raining.” The sky’s tears above are no cover for the visceral ravage of bone and flesh this author lays bare. 

Throughout Bone Water, Kelsey goes into her body with the surgeon’s “rapid hands” and “knives.” She stretches the reader as her spine has been painfully stretched and stressed over and over. It is unbearable, yet there is a vicious beauty in how she relates the ravages of her body. Her perspective is at once dissociated and visceral. 

In “Kintsugi,” the narrator “offer[s]” their “broken body, time and time again.” Like the art form the poem is named after, all of these pieces speak to the necessity of constantly creating beauty in fractured spaces. “Everyday a new story …” (“Left Thigh”). This genre is the Art of Survival. 

Kelsey won’t allow you off the operating table or out of bed. But she will gift you the wry absurd humor it takes to live artfully in a pain wracked or ill body. This is a vantage point that is too often invisible in this bustling world. Invisible — like many of us Painlings and chronically ill folx are or feel. These are deep seldom explored waters. And in this time of pandemic, when many who survive are left with lingering or permanent ailments, it’s time to dive in. 

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