…Another book that stakes its interest in territory “inbetween”— to entirely different effect—is Emily McGiffin’s moving debut, Between Dusk and Night. Where Bruck captures domestic instants in which “details derail, destinations overwhelm,” in McGiffin’s poetry the reader is thrown with the poet into the role of existential seeker. Her traveller in the “half-dark,/ in this wolfish light” is “awake with everything thoughtless,/ everything without cause,/ without reason. […] crouch[ing] there/ crepuscular,// animal,/ alive.”
The earth’s strangeness is inevitably coloured by leave-taking and by what’s been left behind, willingly or otherwise, as in “Setting Out,” the opening poem of this strong collection. “The day she leaves the Whittaker Farm, she will butcher/ the last six chickens and drown the cat,” the poet writes. Such escapes, “partings and absences,” departures and disappearances pervade the book.
The poet faces an unexpected, solitary path, like a “beetle/ [that] emerges from under a leaf;/ it has found the sun and remembers/ its own limbs, its stiff grace./What it must do,” she writes in “After a Journey.” The ordinary is exchanged for the “gift” of reckoning with life itself; it becomes a nightlong weaving of words during which “colloquy blossomed into cacophony” and the “near mountains glistened.”
McGiffin writes from a limbo where her “chest is a cold scrap yard/ of broken, rusting things. It seems impossible// that they were ever useful.” Yet she persists, with the same “stiff grace” of a “heart healing around an emptiness/ into some tougher, brighter thing.”