The Bride’s Gate and Other Assorted Writings
A Modern Eclectic Reader for Modern Eclectic Readers
by Lenora Rain-Lee Good
Poetry, Short Stories, and Short Essays, 247 pages
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Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
As a youth my family lived in a rural Illinois town where the main industry was, and still is, farming. Homes were old and reflected the practical mindset of farmers and the men and women whose calloused hands bore witness to a hard but satisfying lifestyle.
Amid all this practicality, in a obscure corner of town, stood a mystery house. Reputed to be haunted, the Queen Anne style home was dark, in need of paint. Chimney bricks were loose. Shutters dangled loose from their hinges, clanging dissolutely against old bricks. The most interesting feature of “the dark house,” was a rusty, arc-shaped gate. We boys would stealthy get as close as we dared, wrap our fingers in its ornate décor, straining to see inside.
In her latest project author Lenora Rain-Lee Good bids intrepid readers to pull themselves up and peer through the gate’s wrought-iron openings, to see what there is to see.
Good’s title poem “The Bride’s Gate” sets the tone:
The outer gate of
curlicues, finely wrought of iron,
interlock one upon the other,
painted a soft, warm green,
they beckon, “Welcome.”
The gate allows errant breezes to pass
through the thick stone wall.
Hinges, rusted, are swung
Only for entrance of a new bride.
she meets her husband
for the first time
within the garden, having
passed through the second,
inner gate; the bride’s gate,
as closely fashioned
in opposing pattern
of straight bars tightly grilled,
painted dark, forbidding brown.
No light or laughter
escapes these gates.
only the breeze
This poem, shadowy and mysterious, reflects Good’s artistic skill. Her poems, short stories and essays are designed for the eclectic reader. Eclectic materials are materials selected from a range of sources. Her writings are accessible, tongue-in-cheek, usually brief, thoughtful and wise.
The Bride’s Gate contains 19 works of fiction, 20 original poems, and 20 non-fiction essays. A nice eclectic balance. I appreciated the author’s brief context-setting “About this Poem, Essay, or Story,” which is offered at the end of each piece. These are portals into Good’s effusive mind.
I returned again and again to “Becoming Sacagawea.” The story reminded me of my own youth. As a young girl who didn’t always “fit in,” Good discovers a fanciful world in Forest Park in Northwest Portland, Oregon.
“It was my favorite place in the summer. Before the sun turned the sidewalks into long straight ribbons of gray reflecting ovens, before the air became sticky with humidity and clung to me like tasteless Jell-O, before my day filled with choking diesel exhaust, I walk the paths of Forest Park.”
Outfitted in jeans and shirts (not skirts and blouses) she kept company with mountain men, such as Hugh Glass and Jim Bridger. No longer a “girl” she learned to smell Grandmother Earth. Her perfume became the aroma of Douglas fir and the “softer scents: of decaying wood and mulching leaves.” What joy permeates this work of a mere 250 words or so. I love how Good exploits her title at the end.
Skilled writers know how to place readers in the action. This is certainly the case in “Flashflood.” The action takes place on a camping trip in the Wallowa Mountains in Northeast Oregon. Fifteen-year-old Lenora is dispatched to the river’s edge to fetch a gunnysack of edibles keeping cool in the shallows. Suddenly, the shoreline begins to vanish as a wall of water comes surging by. Grandmother’s voice was frantic, yelling at Lenora to “leave the stuff” and “get back to camp, pronto”! Unforgettable lessons were learned that day. Lessons about love. Lessons about respecting nature. Lessons about the power of nature. I was there.
I was also “there” for “Chased by a Water Moccasin.” Don’t miss this one.
As noted above, this collection is eclectic. Drawing from a rich background of experiences, Good reveals an accurate eye for societal injustices toward minorities and especially toward the weak and helpless.
“Because it is Waiilatpu,” is a response to a massacre that occurred at the Whitman Mission on November 29, 1847. The litany of lies and misunderstandings tears at the poet’s heart. (She too, is of Native American heritage) Reproduced in full, this is poetry which inspires toward a more just, open, and compassionate world.
the winds come through the valley
carry the death songs of those who lost
their blood upon the ground. You must be still
to hear their songs, and even then the words
are in a language only the dead can understand.
Because it is Waiilatpu, little
Alice Clarissa runs and tumbles, laughs
with the exuberance of a two-year-old toddler,
through the purple rye, to play with the other ghosts
not understanding their weeping, not understanding their death.
Because it is Waiilatpu,
covered in emerald grass, turtles nest by the mill pond
deer wander through the replaced orchard
winds carry the dust and grit of plowed fields
the perfumes of sage and wheat, grape and rye.
The ghosts use the winds and the grit to polish the marble slab
to high sheen, knowing when their names are obliterated
they will at last be free.
Because this is Waiilatpu.
Buy this book … The Bride’s Gate and Other Assorted Writings has much to reveal.