Review by Ana C.H. Silva
Dragonfly Morning, consisting of twenty poems, heavily illustrated over its fifty one pages by both Eihmane and Bridget Irving, put out by Being Books, is a wonderful follow up to Eihmane’s recent chapbook, One Day at the Taiwan Land Museum. Eihmane, a transplant to Taiwan from her native Latvia, pulls in the big-lunged breaths of someone in a new land who finds more of herself as she integrates the beauty, objects, and sensibilities of a place into her way of being. The way a new context energizes, sharpens, and informs the senses is especially clear as the speaker runs downhill in the pitch-dark in “Roads on Datunshan”:
But yesterday blue magpies sat frozen in the trees,
their orange beaks like carrots,
miniature snowmen on every other passing car –
the rare snowfall on Yangmingshan.
I slip-slid down the dark path to Zhuzihu
So damp the cloud of my breath dimmed the torchlight.
Fourteen calla lilies for one hundred Taiwan dollars
on long straw-stalks standing knee-deep in water
Eihmane’s thoughtful meditations on the complexity and tenderness of motherhood continue in this volume, especially in “Night Mommy” where
Night Mommy crawls
into your bed with scissors.
she cuts your nails and treats your wounds
with sea buckthorn oil,
she rubs White Flower ointment on your nose
The note of danger with “scissors” rings clearly just before the speaker’s gentle motherly ministrations. Even the term “Night Mommy” is evocative. Let’s think about mothers, in the evening, shall we, when they are alone with their thoughts in the finally-quiet night. This mother chooses to take care of her child, but one senses that she has made a conscious choice to be nurturing. Something, too, of her need for appreciation (“say:Thank you,/and:Please) finishes the poem and adds a dash of salt to the sweet.
Dragonfly Morning is a wonderful collaboration: Eihmane’s sense of wonder at the world she finds herself in – the leaves of young camphor trees, fairy lights, the crisp skin of dead eel and puffer fish, salmon-colored pigeon music, the sound of distant temple drums or perhaps thunder – is aptly complemented by Irving’s whimsical penned drawings of animals, people, and key objects. The entirety: Eihmane’s words, her rich watercolors and Irving’s ink drawings are unfussy, intensely colorful, uninterested in rigid lines, and very much interested in capturing the natural, the human, both reaching for a more ease-ful acceptance, a kind of forgiveness of our foibles and needs.
Somehow, reading Dragonfly Morning reminded me of my university dabblings in European philosophers like Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre who describe our condition as being thrown into the world. This collection seems to acknowledge that shaky feeling, that early doubt: “I am made of sand” that afflicts us as we pick ourselves off the hard ground, and it also offers us permission to look around this world so hard that we wake ourselves up into the fullness of being: “Look up! There’s a green bird, my love!” to smell the air deeply: ”plum blossoms…smell of hyacinths and blue cotton candy”, to “put my feet in grasshopper grass” and to
Stand here together,
nodding in silence
reaching for the sky,
the sky that’s on the move.
Dragonfly Morning by Elina Eihmane
Being Books (February 15, 2023)
Paperback 52 pages
Ana C. H. Silva lives in East Harlem, NYC and West Shokan, NY. Her poems are in Podium, Rogue Agent, Mom Egg Review, the nth position, Snow Monkey, Chronogram, StepAway Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Between the Lines, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Shantih Journal. Ana created “Olive Couplets,” an Olive, NY community-based poetry work, and “Lines in the Woods,” an outdoor, interactive poetry installation at the CHHS in Rosendale, NY. Ana writes Gallery and poetry articles for MER. Ana won the inaugural Rachel Wetzsteon Memorial Poetry Prize at the 92nd St. Y Unterberg Poetry Center. Her two poetry chapbooks are entitled One Cupped Hand Above the Other and While Mercury Fish.