Review: It Is Winter

Jeff Fleming
Poetry
34 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” photocopied chapbook
Nibble Press
nibblepoems {at} gmail.com
Review originally published on 3/30/13


This poetry chapbook is a short read, more of a novelty of one story arc than a full-on chapbook collection. The story is uncertain, intentionally vague, as if we are getting the same glimpses of the pieces as the characters, themselves. It’s set up to read as a continuous piece, with each poem labeled in order as prologue, chapter one, chapter two, and so on down to epilogue. To read a poem out of order here would not do justice to the full body of work.

The story is written in third person with a “she,” whose viewpoint is most followed, and a “he,” whose viewpoint is more vague. The prologue and epilogue, however, are written in the first person, seemingly from the male perspective, and seem to tie in as endnotes in the here and now, like a voyeur harking back on a bygone tale or watching it unfold in a film that he is lost within. He might be the man on the pages sandwiched between the bookends, or he might just be a spectator; we’ll never fully know, but he seems to know far more of the story than he’s letting on.

What we do know is that there is constant tension from the onset,

[ … ]
you said later
you forgot throwing me out
couldn’t hear the pounding
my fists on the door
but i know
when the fury comes
you hear everything
(from “merry goddamn christmas”)

everything is wintry,

[ … ]
the moon was cracked ice
[ … ] (from “merry goddamn christmas”)

[ … ] winter
clouds make
their way
across his vision
[ … ] (from “calling out”)

[ … ]
through a fog
of falling snow
flakes like bullets
[ … ] (from “small drifts”)

and the woman has clearly pulled the trigger on the man. He is believed to be dead, although we never actually see him die on the pages. But through the pages, we watch her fade with the torment, the guilt, and the freedom. She is mysterious. The gunshot is mysterious. We don’t know what happened, what triggered it, if you will. But like a succulent piece of flash fiction that gives a reader only a snippet of the full story, we take the journey and accept the torment.

I’ll leave you with my favorite piece in its entirety, “her mouth a line”:

she thinks
of him
every year
when the first
heavy snow
covers the fields
and strong
impulses drive
birds south
she believes
they are both
better off