reviewed by SARAH ESCUE
Headmistress Press, 2017
“Time proliferates things like that: etiolates memories, elongates and twists them in a crowded space” (20). Riddle by Diane Furtney is a study in love, loss, and time. Furtney explores life’s greatest riddles by traveling to jungles and cities, riding along the coasts of California, Mexico, New England, and Ohio, living among the fervent, velvet winds. She’s a flâneuse, a pause, meditating upon “how the mind moves and moves” (12), how time can change everything and nothing all at once. Time is circular, non-linear, and Furtney delves within the roots of her memories to discover “knowledge of the only thing worth knowing: endlessness. Being caught and being freed” (17).
Furtney studies the curve of memory, its blur and angles, its “locus of points surrounding the surround” (16). In her work, time’s various tiny greeneries sprawl, and the past branches and burrows, creating deeper networks of anamnesis. She sifts through her memories, her multiple pasts, and uncovers that living “in its best instances has to do with finding out more about how to be alive, or learning about how better to learn—something like that” (33). She’s on a constant search for herself through time, how she’s changed and remained the same, in her youth and in her current life.
Riddle is a susurration, a pause between calls, and an examination of how change dilates in its continuity. Furtney’s articulation of the depths and geometries of bodies and the intricate and webbed connections of people expands into something multiple and difficult to name, something like desire. While in Mexico, she writes of desire, how it can be collected anywhere, how people can become her environment: “Here where every mood is a woman, every morning a woman, here where the jungle is constantly satisfied desire and a constant shove of more desire” (12).
Furtney writes of the in-between hours, rooms blue with darkness, half-lit cities, and silhouettes—when two bodies are the shortest distance between two points. She traces the maze of her past loves and losses, searching for the gaps between branches, a space to pause and remember, a space for self-reassembly. She writes of how “the nights extend into every direction with no end…” (13), and of the possibilities that accompany the dark, of women’s bodies, and of her own body’s expanse. She talks of her past lovers and desires over her lifetime—the desire to be free and love freely: “This is the woman—I also am a woman—since the birth of time, to whom I’ve been faithful, who has overgrown my life like moss, who graces my every hour, and whom I love” (31). Along with the world’s need for her to announce and defend her sexuality she writes “…whenever you provoke another brood of doubts (‘You’re really gay?’) if you so much as snap on a necklace. The Crutch Store of cliché is where they need for you to shop” (31). She asserts people are more than their appearance and that they hold multiple stories within their bodies.
Of a love lost in her youth, she writes of the woman for whom she walked night floors, wish-ridden and weeping, the woman who “became a moment in the division of knowledge, mind from body” (19). This endless knowledge encircles Furtney, unthreading and threading mind and body simultaneously. The connections and divisions of mind and body emerge through Riddle, offering a glimpse at the various trajectories one’s life takes—the multiple orbits one encounters—particularly how the mind fits to the body as the body bends to the world.
The world is commotion, cacophonic, and restless, but it’s also delicate, orderly, and resplendent. Furtney grapples with “The softness and hardness of the world” (4), the world’s busyness of searching and questioning, its need to categorize and name experiences with love, its offering of love. She writes of origin and childhood, and the world’s obsession with them: “Genesis, meanwhile, is all that anyone longs to know about” (35). She meditates on her past lives, lives and people she recognizes but are now ghosts of memories. Through these poems, Furtney attempts self-reassembly of a person who will always love as it contains infinite possibilities. She is the “the glare of Is rather than the glare of Seems” (2); she is a hanging moment, a mid-movement.
Furtney’s grief and delight rests amongst fallen maple leaves and destroyed robin nests, kaleidoscopic villages and shadowed city streets, and open nights along unnamed coasts. She waits at bus stops, observing the young and lonely, those “in a fever of waiting” (37). As reminders of her younger self, she wishes the lonely something “desperately at odds with your fantasies” (40). Furtney urges readers—like the Athenians’ “ship of mercy” returning to Mytilene to save the city—“May you find, still breathing under the conquered walls, something worth saving” (42).
The poems in Riddle grapple with love lost and love re-encountered, loneliness, and the many arcs of one’s life. Furtney’s writing is sharp and straightforward as she invites readers into her interior landscape to further explore their own raw humanity, desire, and vulnerability. Riddle is a stunning materialization of her incandescence.
SARAH ESCUE is a poet, visual artist, and editor in Boulder, Colorado. Her poems and artwork appear or are forthcoming in Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, The Elephants, Dialogist, Idle Magazine, DIAGRAM, Wildness, Lullwater Review, and others. She holds a BA in English Writing from the University of South Florida, and she’s currently an MFA Writing & Poetics candidate at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. You can visit her website at www.sarahescue.com.