There’s a poetry so close to the bone I’m afraid to look into a mirror, a poetry so razor-edged I know it will find my core, a poetry with such an authentic voice I can’t help but listen. Kim Garcia’s writing affects me this way. Her chapbook Tales of the Sisters unfolds a dark map of childhood – in the vein of Transformations by Anne Sexton and The Father by Sharon Olds. The child’s world created here is a modern echo of the shadowy and disturbing landscapes of the Brothers Grimm. As I read the many entries to this year’s contest, I kept finding my way back to her words.
Garcia’s chapbook is a force and difficult to put down. Readers as witness won’t be able to avert their eyes from the intense tangle of loss and pain and memory. This is a book about juxtaposed worlds, about innocent trust at war with darkness: a “scuffled place in the snow, // one red glove where black asphalt showed through,” “the whole stink of his rage,” the “smell // of rotten leaves, where the toads hid,” “as he bludgeoned rats, big as small dogs, / and threw their bodies into the furnace,” and “red cherry lights swirling the white plaster ceiling”. With the filmic ease of a gifted pen, Garcia sweeps us into a brutal reality that does eventually settle into mercy and silence. What remains is the story.
Two long poems – the title piece, divided into seven parts throughout the pages, and “The Little Golden Books” – represent the collection’s emotional center. All urges of relationships, guilt, and memory connect with these crucial works, transforming a childhood home into an almost magical world so intense one dare not look too closely. It’s “a place no one can see,” but Garcia takes us there, and we’re glad she knows the way. Tales of the Sisters is a remarkable, stirring read .