Proof by Karina Borowicz

A Bowl of Caught Water

by Natalia Kennedy

Dear reader,

Let me show you how to travel. Being at the constant center of movement is a slow art. The joinery when not immediately clear is subtle on the palate. For greatest proof you will want to sip. Imagine the night coursed out in three. No one will announce landing saucers. Heightened or elevated flavors include: edges, passage, carving and distance.The operation on the table works on various speeds.

I couldn’t ignore my desire to write a letter. Dickinson wrote letters to many of her closest acquaintances and often included a poem. Of course, if I were to address the poet, Borowicz, I would have to thank her for the work’s precision and outline. In each text she approaches shape, form, and object often with a magnifying glass. The physical world of her poetry lives in moments that are decidedly present and specific. Whether the speaker in these moments occupies the current now or the still bitter tasting rooms of older nows, the “drops I’ve managed to collect” signify a clear cutting into essence through writing.

While certain individual poems stand out, I appreciate this book for its ability see through and across the world we must move in. If Dickinson’s poems and her life express the compassionate view of a science-loving woman, then Borowicz echoes that intense and probing gaze. Poems in Proof both highlight the power of human (animal) senses and instinct as well as their limitations. Borowicz often guides readers through her world by letting the senses lead. Especially in the book’s first section, the careful placement of poems provides important threading, which initially happens from poem to poem and later in more broad sweeps from theme to theme. A string of poems, “Midnight Train,” “Passage,” “Genie the Imprisoned Child,” “Down Here,” and “Bad Honey,” push the reader along like a bead on a string. The poem, “Passage,” immediately following “Midnight Train,” begins:

When dusk comes a train passes
through the thin woods behind
the cluster of houses

“Passage” ends:

a voice
she once knew and now
ringing silence

which opens to the following first line of “Genie the Imprisoned Child”:

There’s no such thing as silence

she hears the rain, she hears
cars on the street, children
called by names that sound
like music
there are no words
because no one has ever spoken to her

In Proof many poems run into each other. Frequently a last line lands where the next poem takes off: Trains link to trains; silence opens to noise. The the final line of “Genie…” shows us a bird and “Down Here” begins with a blue heron. “Down Here” gives us the honey of a lamp, lighting inner houses, and so the title appearance in the next poem, “Bad Honey” seems only expected. At first the pairing of poems, this technique of ordering, made me nervous. Something about the practice seemed too simple, too obvious, but as I continued reading I found not only a comfortable rhythm but a complexly woven design. The pattern, though simple at first, builds upon itself to create the elaborate mystery of existence. Borowicz trusts the pattern she finds in the world and articulates it in similarly eloquent fashion.

Other consistencies or clues a reader has to work harder for. Many of the concerns and questions of a consistent and returning speaker contribute to the book’s over-arching movement—providing “answers” that come in waves. Yet, much of what Borowizc’s poetry is dealing with has little to do with solution. A lot of her language tries to capture the difficulty of “the edge” by looking at space(s) between language, the senses, time, and between bodies or lives.

Because many of the poems invite a synergy, acute and macro, I recommend reading this book in one sitting and straight through. The kind of payoff it offers requires a different sort of attention, one that allows time to watch words and worlds bleed together. That’s not to say that this poetry gets sloppy. To cut into the essence of a thing Borowicz doesn’t make her images do strenuous work; she just slices them open and paints their insides on the page. Despite the seeming messiness, the work appears surprisingly clean.

Although the first parts of Proof feel like a game of “I spy,” poems in the final sections adhere to a different weight and temperature. Milk at night is always cold. Lines although muddied remain intact and differentiating. Regret sneaks in through the crack we do not see. And memory becomes heavy. Let us leave on the poem “Guardian.”

A tiny animal kept close to me on a string.
Warm and precious wool, a little black lamb whose face
is a miniature universe. Then the dream
shifts, I’m walking along my childhood beach
and there’s a doll’s arm in a nest of seaweed,
a leg pokes from the parted mouth of a blue
quahog shell. Keep walking. A doll’s red-cheeked
face, golden curls tumbling in the foam
that pumps in and out at the shore like the edge
of a huge heart. But it’s not up to me to put
the doll together. It’s understood: I’m here to guard
separation, preside over the widening drift.

Borowicz’s words and images have a tendency to linger in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. Just writing about her latest book, invited my own unavoidable wicking of taut and pressing language.

Don’t be nervous. The path is lit. Hold a hand if you are lucky enough to be missing someone. Deep down. That feeling, because it has nowhere to go, stays put like a “bowl of caught water.”