This Coalition of Bones by Cori A. Winrock (Kore Press, 2014)
When I read this collection, I was fascinated by the spine and its injuries. How perpetual pressure can force the spinal discs to wear away, how a rupture can seep into its surroundings—pinching nerves and birthing a relentless pain. Spinal discs are made to burden the daily compression and decompression caused by movement, but one instance of physical trauma or consistent strain can arrive at the same endpoint. This Coalition of Bones by Cori A. Winrock spoke to these themes, presented poems both compressing and decompressing in a motion filled with insistent musicality and unrelenting gentleness.
The opening poem, “Portrayal, X-Ray,” encapsulates the liminal space the collection situates itself in. The last three couplets generate power for the poems that follow it:
blush, at transforming
the stray flock of ambulance lights burst live
into a charm of humming-
birds. If it’s romantic to architect a thing
back into its bones—: imagine us in ruins
from the start. (13-18)
The transformation of ambulance lights into a charm of hummingbirds. The image of an x-ray and the speaker’s transparent speculation if it’s romantic to architect a thing back into its bones work in tandem with this seeing past the skin, the covering, and into the very structure of what creates an entity. How there is a wholeness to this collapse of the body. This presents a space for the impossible, the taut space between creation and destruction.
The musicality of the collection remains steady while investigating the remaking of the body and the self. For example, the use of we pulses as a marker of togetherness in the opening of “Portrayal, X-Ray.”
We snag cabs and drift through the middle
of the night. The city a cathedral
we are ushered into, press our ears against—
listen for the sea sliding inside
its shell: the hushed shuffle
of feet across a pearling (1-6).
“The hushed shuffle” intrigue of this poem summons an atmosphere of filled quiet with feet ushered and snagged. These sounds complement and highlight the x-ray, its strange iridescent glow against such a dark backdrop and then a light.
Anatomy, magic, and science allows for the literal looping and lacing of organs, a delicate but unwavering process in “Descending to Level.” The speaker loop[s] my lungs on string & swing[s] them around: lung to lung (2-3) and later lace[s] my voice through sand & descend[s]: empty core to lung (14-15). This evocative image of motion invites the reader to expand upon linear thought while tethered to the tangible body.
This Coalition of Bones creates a precise world. Acute observations inform and transform the observation into a beautiful process and lasting image. Winrock is not afraid to expose what lies underneath the surface like how the forest shivers off in the opening of “The Anxieties of Feet: 52 Roma Bones”—what some people are afraid of and what they resist. This is only an introduction to the rest of the collection. The process is changed, skewed under different lights, and we will be surprised by unrelenting beauty and invited to imagine us in ruins from the start.