‘Til Death: Marriage Poems by Janice Leach and James Frederick Leach
Raw Dog Screaming Press (January 2017)
112 pages, $12.95 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Let’s go ahead and skip the expected Princess Bride reference and pretend I made it so we can move on, alright? After all, marriage isn’t just about love, no matter how true that love may be. Just as it isn’t about sex (just ask every hack comic). Or the creation of small clones of yourselves. Or the merging of empires. Sure, those are part of it, but they utterly fail to encompass the actual experience. Marriage is about a life shared, along with all of the terror, heartache, unbridled rage and desperation that entails. The rest is just window dressing.
The Leaches get this and, with ‘Til Death, they give us a view into their own shared life. It isn’t pretty. Except when it is. It isn’t heartwarming. Except when it is. It is pretty damn sexy, on occasion. It is also full of spilt crimson, split skin and a whole mess of upended existence rubbed raw against the page.
The whole is best encapsulated by the last poem, ¨Cold Solstice.¨ It uses the images and motions of a winter solstice soiree as a metaphor for their marriage and for all we have read up to that point. From the tremulous fear and excitement of the opening, to the sense of individual fragility amidst a gaudy exterior and the heat of fresh beating hearts. The calm that brings the encroaching cold. The meandering apart and through others. The distraction of shiny things. Most importantly, the return to and finding of one another among the ashes of burned regrets. And that last stanza that leaves me quaking every time I read it.
I know poetry isn’t for everyone. More so when it is built on the terror, exaltation and adoration that comes with a pair of lives well lived in tandem. All the same, you are selling yourself short if you pass this one by.