A haunting collection that inhabits a disquieting future where fear is the governing body, “the organ and the tissue / and the cell, the membrane and the organelle.”
“Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen.” Part requiem, part bedtime story, Meltwater narrates the awful possibility of doom as well as the grim temptation to numb ourselves to it. Prose poems melt into erasures, erasures swell into lush catalogs. Within this formal ebb and flow, Claire Wahmanholm explores both abundance and annihilation, giving shape and music to our shared human anxieties. What does it mean to bring children into a world like this one? A world where grenades are “the only kind of fruit we can still name”? Where “lightning can strike over / and over without boredom or belief and nothing / is saved”? Where losses, both ecological and personal, proliferate endlessly?
Here, a parent’s joy is accompanied by the gnaw of remorse. And yet, Wahmanholm recognizes, children bind us to the world—to its missiles and marvels, to the possibility that there is indeed grace worth “suffer[ing] the empty universe for.”
If we are going to worry, let us also at least wonder. If we are going to be seized by terror, let us also be “seized by the topaz sky and the breeze through it.” A glittering, kinetic testament to vanishing—of biodiversity, of climate stability, of a sense of safety—Meltwater is both vindication and balm.