Review: Falling Forward

Rebecca Schumejda
Poetry
80 pages
ISBN 978–1–934513–12–5
5” x 8” trade paperback
Published by Sunnyoutside
Buffalo, New York
Available HERE
Review originally published on 7/6/09


Falling Forward is an absolute gem of a salute to the married woman, housewife, mother, and regular everyday female trooper through this so-called life. The poems are down-to-earth, accessible, understandable, and endearingly charming.

The cover, showing a tree with an immense root system, should give a few clues that the story is going to run deep, about close issues, family ties, struggles of life and love, familial roots, the deep-seated maternal connections of both roots and branches.

It begins with a quote from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables that sets the tone remarkably for the rest of the book:

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are
moments when, whatever be the attitude
of the body, the soul is on its knees.

And there it is, all packaged into a few sentences — family, motherhood, religion, soul-searching, questioning — the ongoing themes of Schumejda’s writing.

The book is divided into four parts, the last part being one poem where the first three lines are the titles of the other three sections, each of those sections separated with dedications and themes to various people and time periods in Schumejda’s life. Each section is comprised of little vignettes, scenarios, and moments that have made an impact in, and are metaphors for, her life and traveled paths. The entire book is full of these very human moments and emotions, of real and relatable situations.

From the first poem about relaying the news of a cat that has died after eighteen years as a loyal companion to someone not yet home from work, pondering the breakdown, the reactions, the quiet words:

[ … ]
I wait on the porch
to avoid the silence
that creeps
around the house
on ghost paws.
[ … ]

to using kitchen utensils to relate communication to significant others across a breakfast table:

[ … ]
You stir your coffee
with the handle of a butter knife:
this is how you tell me
that you’re not listening.
[ … ]

to providing insight into a comfortable, yet antsy, marriage with all its questions and compromises:

[ … ]
Maybe it’s marriage,
not the heat wave,
that makes us lazy.
In protest to “cereal again,”
you kneel beside me,
pour milk into
my bellybutton.
While dredging with
my thumbnail,
I can’t help thinking
about all the cows
swatting flies with their tails,
waiting to be hooked up
to a machine
that will empty the milk
from their swollen utters.

and all the differences in emotion, follow-through, and reactions of men and women:

[ … ] you wrap gifts and
stack them into piles without regard for crushed
bows. [ … ],

Schumejda has it nailed, the human side, the ah-yes moments, the words that say what every woman has thought a thousand times and is thinking right this moment.

She integrates her background and diverse upbringing — atheist parents, devout Catholic grandparents, a father who died when she was quite young — to discuss faith, spirituality, the parallels of religion and life, openly:

[ … ]
My mother handles conversation like
good china and religion — takes it out
on holidays, but prefers to dine on paper
plates and drink red wine from plastic cups.
[ … ]

and to invite many interpretations of the repeating line “the truth is too heavy,” ringing loudly with both religious and everyday life connotations, charging into other parallels of people and nature, of birds going after earthworms the way the author goes after her partner’s toast crust, both leaving little left over until the spring can come again.

Beautiful. Brilliant.