Before the Big Bang Makes A Sound

Listen closely. You will hear the rhythmical jazz of a leaky faucet. The creaking floorboards in the attic of memory. The sound of a heart crunching beneath the weight of a life, and then again, that heart’s resilient rising announced in a brassy timbre. And then, with hearing attuned to the sensitive antenna of imagination, you will hear the sounds of a self slowly yet insistently emerging from its cocoon. The pangs, joys, agonies, promises and griefs that are housed within metamorphosis, form the quivering core of Carolynn Kingyen’s debut poetry collection: Before The Big Bang Makes A Sound (Kelsay Books).

Kingyen’s tenderly engaging collection pulses with directness and intimacy: these are poems that call for warm lamplight as their confessional beacon, or for the shadowed creases in unmade bedsheets on a Sunday morning. As a restless soul, sifting through wreckage and claims, through psychic bric-a-brac and unsullied miracles, Kingyen has pieced together, with deftness and candor, her own heart-shaped box of offerings. Or an altar, where the broken and the fulfilled keep each other company. Reflections on being a mother, a wife, a writer, a daughter, a seeker, a lover, and a woman all her own, both harmonize and contradict, merge and dissolve, as Kingyens renders the multiple slants and angles that challenge our perceptions of who we are, who we aren’t, who we hoped to be, who we are in the process of becoming. Shedding, and reckoning, are very much at play in these poems, which demonstrate the strength of vulnerability that speaks to our humanness. Lines from Beck’s melancholic gem, “Strange Invitation,” were conjured during my trip through Kingyen’s world: “I remember the way that you smiled/When the gravity shackles were wild/Something is vacant when I think it’s all beginning.”

The feels, flavors and tones of New York create the urban panorama in which many of Kingyen’s poems take up residence, jaywalk across busy streets, ride crowded buses, sneak into bodega basements, or, in moments of lucid illumination, glimpse disco-ball cloud-smoke eternity on West 85th and West End Avenue. Then there’s the merciless vice-grip of Time, when geared to the city-grind:

“In New York, the city that

never sleeps, Time is boss.

She owns us, but we still

rush to beat the clock;

rush to beat rush hour—

strangers in a sea

of strangers bum-rushing

subway doors like cattle.

Time laughs.” (The Parable of Time)  

Or, in a blues-tinged case of nostalgia, it is “Coney Island” whose air is peppered with wistfulness:

“I want to go back in time

where hope hangs heavier

than the moon;

when love is as hard as a fist

inside the throat;

a time when real butterflies

replace the redundancy

of roller coasters.”

Here, then, in this wonderful debut collection, is the paper-thin grace of butterfly wings brushing against the glass of memory and longing, with an aureate tint backlighted by gratitude.

About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, performer, and playwright, John Biscello, has lived in the high-desert grunge-wonderland of Taos, New Mexico since 2001. He is the author of four novels, Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, Nocturne Variations, and No Man’s Brooklyn; a collection of stories, Freeze Tag, two poetry collections, Arclight and Moonglow on Mercy Street; and a fable, The Jackdaw and the Doll, illustrated by Izumi Yokoyama. He also adapted classic fables, which were paired with the vintage illustrations of artist, Paul Bransom, for the collection: Once Upon a Time, Classic Fables Reimagined. His produced, full-length plays include: LOBSTERS ON ICE, ADAGIO FOR STRAYS, THE BEST MEDICINE, ZEITGEIST, U.S.A., and WEREWOLVES DON’T WALTZ.
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