Other Acreage (Review Series #7)

My reviews for Image Journal appear each month in ImageUpdate.

Poems Radiating the Heart of Lent
Other Acreage by Becca J.R. Lachman

There are precisely 46 poems in Becca J.R. Lachman’s Other Acreage—a neat correspondence with the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter—and should you begin the book today (and do a little catch-up reading) you will embark upon a most pleasurable daily discipline for Lent. Nowhere do her poems mention this liturgical season, but they radiate the heart of Lent: the leaving-behind of what must be left behind, the painful wait for literal and spiritual spring. The goal of all Lenten disciplines, of course, is not the discipline itself but a more vital life in Christ, and this life-to-the-full is what Lachman seeks. Raised Mennonite, she leaves behind the trappings of her religion (though not its commitment to peace and justice), and craves a life in which she might “cry at the beautiful / God looking out of a stranger, make my life / from something sung / out of joy, not out of training.” A series of poems in which St. Francis is relocated to the modern day United States intimate that this life might not be so impossible as it seems; the transported Francis does things that any of us might do: read Rumi to a dying man; offer comfort at a car wreck; listen compassionately to strangers—in this case, customers at his burrito buggy. (Conversing with polar bears at the zoo might be out of our reach, but we can dream.) Lachman inches her way to joy with tiny rebellions—getting a tattoo, for example, but an ivy leaf so tiny that the tattooist scoffs, “you / don’t want a tattoo, you want a birth- / mark, lady.” Meanwhile, on the land where her family has dwelt for generations, the past falls away more dramatically. The farmhouse is sold, the mother church trucked to another location as “condos went up on Shawnee / burial mounds.” Old ways crumble. Snow melts. Hope sprouts in grief. We might pray, along with Lachman: “O / holy armor, please, please be orange: poppies’ / warm lanterns led out from the grave each May.”
—Reviewed by Jen Hinst-White

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