when the daffodils die
by Darah Schillinger
31 poems ~ 71 pages
Publisher: Yellow Arrow Publishing
To Order: Direct from the author through her Instagram page (@darahschillinger)
or Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
Recently my wife spent two weeks visiting our daughter helping in the care of her newborn. Upon her return home, I surprised her with a vase of burgundy roses. The roses were decorated with baby’s breath and a white ribbon. My wife was overjoyed as she entered the house. The roses maintained their beauty for a good 10 days. Sadly, on about day 11, we noticed a blackening on the petal’s edges as they began waning and drooping. Finally, they were done. This experience came to mind as I reflected on Darah Schillinger’s collection when the daffodils die. Though the roses died, it was their life that brought much joy.
At the tender age of 22, Darah Schillinger understands life’s fragility. Just as daffodils are among the first flowers of spring, so they tend to fade and die all too soon. I want to show that Schillinger’s debut collection is emotionally rich with life-vibrations, even though there comes a time when the daffodils [must] die.
Schillinger opens with “ripe,” a poem which aligns the poet’s life with the natural world:
I am unfurled
open and wide
hands shoved deep–
the deepest chasms between my collar bone
into the space between my ribs
where white daisies grow
and yellow roses prick my lungs
where fields of grass and budded fruit blossom and drop
into the layers of my flesh
where the sun pulses
gently and my heart,
ripe for picking,
falls full onto the earth.
The poet’s sensitivity to life, her immersion in its spiritual waters is impressive. “Where fields of grass and budded fruit blossom and drop / into the layers of my flesh,” suggests a life-affirming intensity rarely encountered by this reviewer.
Even the title “ripe” forms a kind of theme for the collection. I think of maturation. Schillinger isn’t pretending to have arrived either as a person or as an artist. I like this quality. It is essential to growth. I mentioned the poet’s life-affirming intensity, a moment ago. “Distance” illustrates this quality in a poem about her beloved.
I want his smell sunk into my skin
at the temples
where the hair meets my face.
Just as she knows that daffodils must die, life, with all its joys, permeates her writing. She asks,
What can I do when he leaves but wait for him to come back
just as it all starts to fade from my sheets
Consistent with her conviction that “daffodils” must die, it is their life, their presence, in moments that “taste of almonds” that claims the day.
Schillinger’s titles entice me: “someone told me once that their bones are like trees and I laughed,” “winter in Pennsylvania,” “couples therapy,” Brood X,” and “ I love meeting people lined with tattoos,” are but a few “teasers” rich in poetic content.
I return to my argument that Darah Schillinger is a talent on the rise precisely because her mind is “ripe” with life-vibrations. Her poem “Mother’s Day,” is a prime example of a special daffodil that infuses her world with life:
our Mother’s love is constant and vibrant and holds me
fast to her chest
when romance leaves deep bloody crescents in the skin of my arms
and a throbbing hollow dissatisfaction
in in the clay of my stomach
Mother loves me even when I don’t love her back.
I submit that this heart-daffodil will never die!