Beyond the Moon’s White Claw
by Patty Dickson Pieczka
89 poems, 128 pages
Publisher: Red Dragonfly Press
To Order: www.reddragonflypress.org
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
In my role as a book reviewer few collections have moved me more than Patty Dickson
Pieczka’s new work. As a poet I have learned that reading and writing poems brings
about healing in the aftermath of stress. Pieczka avers in her introduction, “I needed to
come to terms with the some of the murkier parts of my past.” Beyond the Moon’s White
Claw, chronicles that journey and its results. She offers these poems in love, as a gift to
her fortunate readers.
Divided into five parts, Pieczka invites readers to accompany her on a quest for healing.
While the poems are strong enough to stand on their own, she urges readers to take them
in chronological order.
Part I. Marriage to Vic and his father’s suicide
Part II. Life after divorce and my friend Kinouk
Part III. Vic’s attempt to return home
Part IV. Dedication to all those affected by violence or war
Part V. Epilogue, my present life
As a veteran of the Vietnam war, your reviewer is well acquainted with Pieczka’s profile
of her husband Vic. At 18, he, like so many young men was
Young and in the war-singed jungle,
his face as carved as an old man’s,
shadows of death weave through his hair,
ghosts drifting past his eyes.
This excerpt is one of “Four Snapshots of Victor,” which open the collection. Each poem
contains five couplets which correspond to Vic’s life in carefully measured decades, at18,
28, 38 and 48. These poems form a kind of artist’s sketch of the man destined to
influence the poet in profound ways and compel her to inspect both the beauty and
undersides of situations that sparked and flared from her memory.
Like the changing of seasons in the middle-west, where nature signals gradual transitions,
so between Patty and Vic, changes were subtle, moving from
Sing to Me
and make the rough-ridged rocks
of this day
vanish into the sun.
Unlace the afternoon;
let its blue-gray ribbons
fly loose in the silver breeze.
Your voice is a satin river
that lifts me to its currents,
to things more sinister on the horizon
When dark wind and leaves
cannot console each other,
he thrashes the night into thin black rags
as fear runs its hot tongue
through his veins.
As the poems progress in Part I, my heart felt heavy for both Patty and Vic as their
marriage gradually changed to the point of no return; Patty writes in The Well
I drag my emptiness behind me.
it clatters along the stones
like a metal bucket.
Divorce segues Pieczka toward friendship and hope as the she faces the pain of an
appendage being ripped from her body. In a series of memorable poems Pieczka blends
the visible outer world of nature with the invisible (but no less real) world of the human
psyche. The moon, the collection’s pivotal metaphor, is present throughout. Even when it
is not directly referenced, it is still there, as in this excerpt from
Silence and Echoes
Wind whispers Vic’s quiet laugh,
gathers leaves and piles them
against my door. Kitchen pots
Speak in hollow voices.
Sometimes, I wake
in the cool arms of night,
feel his presence and know
he’s traveling closer.
Perhaps some readers have felt the same as Pieczka, sensing that a relationship is moving
Back from the Bayou
Vic appears from the Gulf,
and we circle each other
like suspicious cats,
our once-flowing conversations
threadbare and sparse.
As Part II develops Pieczka draws readers up close and personal as
I pour bittersweet August
into my opened wounds
and pray for light,
tear the night’s fears
into tiny black pieces
for the breeze to hold.
Pieczka’s anguished heart brings forth powerful imagistic poems. In Part III, she reaches
into the night to feel morning’s warm hand. Vic returns home from his sojourn in
Louisiana, but things do not go well. The trauma to Vic’s soul from his military
experiences finds expression for Pieczka in poems laying open the pathos of their
relationship. Here is an excerpt from What Lives in the Dark
The day closes its heart,
and I listen through gaps of dusk
to the breath of black trees.
While darkness is profound for the poet, she does not give into darkness; she continually
has faith that light will not forever be obscured
While Waiting for Sunlight
I ignored the moon,
never noticed its shape
was an unopened dream
ready to bloom silver.
This poem, toward the end of Part III, marks a subtle transition moving the poet ever-so-
cautiously into the orbit of hope anchored in love.
In parts IV and V, Pieczka unfolds a tapestry of poems, born of love, and dedicated to all
affected by violence, racism, and prejudice in its many forms.
Though the poet is dealing with issues of profound emotional and psychic depth, she
remains faithful to her poetic craft. She is an artist of amazing skill and range.
I would be remiss if I did not cite a particularly poignant poem from Part V; I leave you
with this in power and in majesty
I carry your breath in my hands
like warm sun at dusk.
Your laughter vines through my hair,
roots growing into my heart.
Stay with me
while the forest rings
its small brass bells,
and the lake reflects the oracle
of October’s bronze mirror,
candling golds and russets
of evening’s wild dance.
Hold to our branch and whisper
your song of riffling leaves
before wind clips our stems
to whirl us
back to earth
in our separate turns.
We have only
until the moon blinks.