“Grieving is referred to as a process.
Precipitation is another process, which is similar, in its way.”
Bryce Emley’s A Brief Family History of Drowning is a story in poems about experiencing the time of loss.
Coincidences lose their credibility at times like this and the power of all words, regardless of their source, gain relevance. Small things grow in importance. A Brief Family History of Drowning is a catalog of those things. What was said, what was thought and what objects felt like. It is the kind of poetry book where you might feel inclined to make notes in the margins so that you can refer back should you ever feel like that.
Emley’s go to is water. It serves an illustrative role that Emley floats in, allowing its abundant forms and functions to fill the spaces created in grief and loss, giving the reader the comfort of a familiar context. “A hospital is a barge between kingdoms,” he writes in the poem “Tropic.” Easily understood, it gives the reader space to float on those words as well. He describes the time after his father’s stroke as “In the stroke’s wake.” His father says, “it’s just fog.”
Emley’s language is uncomplicated and often elegant in its simplicity. His words linger without sharp edges. He includes the kind of references that seem more important when you are in the fog of loss. Corinthians. Sontag. Gray. Kant. Not to discount their validity, he includes many words spoken when people don’t know what to say.
Stepping from the shower in the poem “Mother, Mother, Ocean,” Emley addresses the functional prerogative of the grieving process, “There is a task at hand, to get dry. This is something you can do.” A Brief Family History of Drowning is a time spent considering the cold, damp and salty world of grief and a moment to float in its heightened stillness.