Last Apples of Late Empires
Jessica Lamb walks the night rounds of the spirit in this first, unflinching collection of poems, keeping her accounts of desire and disappointment, loneliness and kinship, fertility and decay. The book is animated by a fierce, imperfect love–a mother’s love for her young son; a woman’s love for her long-time husband; a human’s love for this afflicted earth. In poems of gratitude and lament, Jessica Lamb explores the private, and often silent, negotiations a woman makes between the longings of the solitary heart and the demands of marriage and parenting. In the midst of hunger, plunder, and surrender, she finds small stubborn signs of promise and renewal.
Publication date: October 1, 2009
Raised in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Jessica (Matridarsha) Lamb received a master’s degree in Italian literature from Stanford University before settling in Portland, where she has taught writing for many years through the Northwest Writing Institute, Portland Community College, and Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, The Southern Review, and Willow Spring.
Praise for Last Apples of Late Empires
“Jessica Lamb is a miracle. Her poems render most exquisitely a palpable, deeply moving sense of solitude and union–with a partner, a son, ‘the mysterious cloister of a grapefruit’–the light and dark of every day. This is a great book.”
–Naomi Shihab Nye, author of You and Yours
“Steeped in loneliness, streaked with joy, this exquisite collection offers us fruits picked from oracular night, gleaned from daytime’s sunlit orchard. Laced with the longing for separateness, Jessica Lamb’s musical, sensual poems evoke the voice of a loving mother and wife …drawing darkness in, then / doling it out again, warmed.”
“Jess Lamb writes poems that offer treasure in a few right words. The thing about time: so much gets away, so many wishes lost, the wheel of days taking us far from the personal empire ofplenty and past delights. But these poems give a new kind of treasure, shaping in words electric now what was live sensation then. She goes oblique from loss into a side-room she fills with hoarded sensations, tough little songs, devotions, and love letters to what remains.This book is that room. Go in and taste what you need, a raspberry passed from mouth to mouth.”
“Jessica Lamb is more than a gifted, lyric observer. She is, in a classic sense, a “seer,” who inks directions for us to follow the journey down into bones, along the ocean floor, to the day of her death and the day after. She leaves tracks for us across the dew to the center of the circle. We can be grateful that in this quixotic country of the heart, this honest poet opens for us the door to where she quietly and gently tends both the mysterious domestic and natural worlds.”
Excerpt from Last Apples of Late Empires
Nothing to do for this fever but fall hard
on each other’s mouths, lying sprawled
under a spindly tree in a litter-strewn lot.
Once before I’d kissed and promptly died,
playing Desdemona. For the occasion
my mother had sewn a white nightgown
from an old tablecloth. That was theater
but this was some awful delerium, a desperate
fumbling with buttons and clasps, bright ache
and throb the bodily length of every nerve
until I finally dissolved, wanting and not
wanting to want, trying not to think
of my mother and the nightgown-shroud.
A warm rain began gently falling.
There was not a thing not wildly blooming,
even the street steamed fragrantly, his pink
rumpled shirt gleamed. At my door
we swore off kissing and vowed to rise
in the first tremblings of dawn to drink
a cold glass of milk, not thinking not thinking
of nipples and lips. And we did and we
didn’t. And with that little death
the curtains came down.