BOOK REVIEW BY QUILL AND INK
LETTERS WITH TALONED CLAWS
The poems in Letters with Taloned Claws do not fit into the usual cast of a poetry chapbook – on one hand, it is a collection of verses with a recurring theme; on the other, the themes-within-the-theme create a chiaroscuro of overflowing and overlapping emotions. Yes, these poems are dark, somewhat, but only as a tunnel leading into light - they are not poems of sorrow, and not even of hope, but something in between. These are feelings that we have all endured, perhaps, penned by one who has been constrained to live what is unliveable, bear what is unbearable to many amongst us.
An American of Irish origin, Eileen Malone endured the pains and tribulations of motherhood of a different kind - one restricted by the damaged life of a grown son. Her life as a mother with a schizophrenic child forms the theme for a chapbook that is interspersed with sorrow, hope, hopelessness and understanding. The oft repeated questions of "Why me?" and "What have I done?" are touched upon, wept upon, and then discarded, as she turns her focus once again to the "Hows" and "How Nots". Even as she writes "don't worry/ so much about what happens to him after you're gone / Schizophrenics don't live that long" (This is What They Tell Me) she goes on to say:
We turn from each other
hold hands, take a step forward
and the world is made flat
However, the anguish of restlessness is overbearing, and the reader cannot help but identify with her impotence as she writes :
“Come and get him,” the doctor rasped into the phone
“He’s only wasting our time and your money”
They said it was a waste
And that was the only thing
They ever recognized for what it was
- the waste.
(From “The Waste”)
Malone’s attempts to understand the affliction and the afflicted ooze through every turn of phrase, even as the helplessness gives way to a tacit acceptance of what is, and what must be. And while hope for her son dwindles, the love only multiplies, yielding verses as:
I receive your beautifully blighted, misshapen spots
tenderly connected within the moment’s particular flesh
in an achingly sensitive basket of appreciation
(From “As a Trobriand Islander Harvests Yams)
And that is how it remains, the sorrows melting and moulding to endurance, bowing, in celebration of survival.
"Reading Eileen Malone's Letters with Taloned Claws is like hearing the voice of a Janis Joplin grown older and become a mother, but still singing filled with that throaty, raw pain. This is a poetry whose music is rich in images yet deeply visceral--more than can be read at one sitting, but something to come back to over and over." RICH YURMAN
"Letters with Taloned Claws is the story of a mother who takes a passionate unflinching look at the damaged life of her grown son. 'I conceal nothing,' Eileen Malone writes, 'nor do I look away." Keeping eye contact, keeping faith, she makes us listen, makes us care. This is a painful, powerful and moving collection."SUSAN TERRIS
"Eileen Malone's poetry strikes a raw place in me that has known pain beyond what a body can weather. Her language helps us enter into the story of love and loss giving us a chance to suffer and to find human connection. It is a look at a tragic situation beyond control and know, in the end, we endure: still I live, still I am here, still there is something good in the creative process and in expression through poetry. Good god, what we live through!" JANELL MOON