Salt Water is a record of a particular arc in time, albeit one that encompasses many years. As is often the case, the poems are explorations instigated by a central loss—here, that of the father. And though this loss does indeed hold a central place in the collection, other losses are considered as well: childhood, beloved places, taking youthful health for granted.
In addition, another primary loss is explored—that of the fragmentation of self. This splintering can occur in a variety of ways; for example, in the separation of body, mind and spirit, or in the disparity between personas built up as defense and the expressions of authentic, embodied feeling responses. The transformation from fragmentation to a greater sense of wholeness is difficult and painful work. At the same time it can be exhilarating and illuminated by moments of grace. Vulnerabilities entailed in this kind of process, as well as in the experience of the losses described above, can allow for a deep compassion to flower, providing lessons in a greater understanding of what it means to be human, and to share this being human.
While Salt Water navigates loss and its repercussions, it also celebrates kindness and bonds, of family, yes, but also the many other forms of kinship we share through friendship and empathy. This empathy is possible for the human, and non-human alike. The pieces in this collection attempt to honor this fact through a receptivity to memory, ancestry, history and place, in addition to nature and the entities that populate it, so embracing the animal, vegetable, and mineral.
These ideas of transformation, from fragmentation and separation to an increased perception of wholeness and unity, along with the cultivation of kindness and understanding, all point towards a process of healing. Healing, it seems, does not happen in a straight line, and the “goal” is not a fixed thing. Rather, it is always evolving as one grows and changes.
These poems are an attempt to investigate this fact through the lens of personal experience with illness, different losses, and how the self can become splintered because of necessary adaptations. Bonds with family and friends, with memory and history, with place and nature can all exert restorative influences.
Healing is ultimately a creative undertaking. It unfolds along multi-layered channels according to its innate timing, and while it must be attended to, cannot be forced. In Salt Water I attempt to apply words to the process. The word "reader" has as its origin the Old English rædere, meaning: "interpreter of dreams." My hope is that the reader of these poems will interpret them in such a way that will invite their own unique reflections and renewals.
Read Salt Water by Laura Johanna Braverman