November 23, 2013

Fractured Fairy Tales: A Review of Sally Rosen Kindred’s Darling Hands, Darling Tongue by Angele Ellis

cover credit: Hyacinth Girl Press
Darling Hands, Darling Tongue by Sally Rosen Kindred
Hyacinth Girl Press (2013)

Review by Angele Ellis

“My son knew that Disney does not have the last word,” said Sally Rosen Kindred in Little Patuxent Review in 2012, describing what led her to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, first published in book form in 1911. “That if a story was intriguing, there was a good chance there was a ‘real’ one out there that was even better… Only there was still so much that was missing.”

The startling, exquisitely crafted free-verse poems in Kindred’s Darling Hands, Darling Tongue supply what is missing by both reimagining and subverting Barrie’s Edwardian boy’s dream, whose simultaneously unappealing and appalling details have either been forgotten or absorbed into our Disney-saturated culture. This chapbook ventures into new territory—a world of what comes afterward, or instead—by remaking and dissecting, sometimes literally, Barrie’s classic tale. (Kindred uses Peter Pan and Wendy, a version abridged for parents and children with Barrie’s permission in 1915 by the British writer May Byron, and published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1921.)

Kindred reflects and refracts myth to reject, as Andrew Mulvania wrote in Weave Magazine of the Biblical allusions in her full-length collection No Eden (Mayapple, 2011), “the easier and overused.” In “Tinker Bell Thinks About What She Wants,” Kindred conjures a bold woman’s voice for the sprite Barrie describes as “quite a common fairy”:
pull me down. I want you
but wish I did not need your hands

to do my dirt work, your heavy heat to solder
or your pretty mouth to

tell me over, make me more
than a sliver of a dead child’s laugh.
Tiger Lily (whom Barrie condescendingly calls “a princess in her own right… the most beautiful of dusky Dianas”), Tinker Bell, and Wendy Darling narrate seven of the fifteen poems in Darling Hands, Darling Tongue. As Kindred’s female mythmakers—sharp, demanding, regretful, wanting out—they resonate with rebellion. Her Tiger Lily decides to leave the book altogether:
…If my lips moved in this story
we could talk.
I’ve shut your book. Just think
if my sisters and brothers were more
than a smudge on the page, than Redskins
moving in tandem, marching
in some dim

ellipse, waiting to be elected
for salvation or the Superbowl.
As for Kindred’s Tinker Bell, she not only dies—“a… bright shine of a stain” in the midst of the careless, clueless Lost Boys—but undergoes an eerily beautiful autopsy:
…her blood, gone bronze

now that it’s dried in trails
through the handful
of painted dust
we’re calling a girl:

and here,
two bones from the tongue
of a lark—
I can’t even say.

They smell like apples.
They may have been her hands.
And Kindred gives the last word to her Wendy Darling, returned to drizzling London as a wise but sorrowful adult (“Long-armed now, hard-boned / and wingless”):
… Peter once said I made that world. I lie
with it: guilt simmers my dreams, its ocean
seeps out in pain along my arms
when I wake forgetting why rain
is coming down outside
but my body by a man’s, and bone-dry.
Most poignantly, Kindred reads and rereads Peter Pan and Wendy as a narrative of the frayed but essential bond between mother and child—the endless push-pull (for both) between the need for safety and the desire for freedom and adventure, in a world that wavers between fantasy and nightmare. Nashay Jones’s richly-colored illustration for Darling Hands, Darling Tongue’s cover shows a mother stretching her arms upward toward a child who may be either returning to her or flying away, as petals—or wings—fall around them.

These ambiguities and tensions pervade the dreams of the child and adult personae Kindred employs in Darling Hands, Darling Tongue. In dreams, Kindred suggests, begin both responsibilities and escape from responsibilities. The feminist, postmodern poet can change the story and close the book, but the Lost Boys—and Lost Girls—linger in the imagination as more than ghosts or shadows. They are reminders of the fragility of the child-parent bond and of the mortality of the poet’s own child, as in the stunning “One Ending”:
Our story ends, we’re thinking,
when Mr. and Mrs. Darling
throw open all the blue-house windows
to land and adopt the Lost Boys.


That’s one ending.
There’s always another, one
with tigers red
at mouths, their soft paws smearing
the sides of the house
that is his sleeping body,
their tongues a bronze door,
this page
their wild breath at the glass.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous review, Angele. I'm really excited to get this chapbook. I love Sally's poetry and her retelling sounds dark and unsettling. And Kudos to that cover - I love Nashay!


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