A Review of Poetry, Prose, and Art - Summer 2001
Ocean Avenue, by Malena Morling
Reviewed by Steve Harris
Malena Morling writes poetry that possess a gentle wisdom. In many ways the reader is reminded of the innocence of a Blake or a Whitman. There are of course harsh realities, but Morling refuses to be pulled under, and as a result the reader floats along with her, as if in a spiritual amniotic fluid. In the poem "For F.M. Who Did Not Get Killed Yesterday on 57th Street," Morling recounts the shooting of a friend, how he "darted like a fish," through the hole, "the bullet made in the air." But Morling is clearly thinking of a friend who now lives on only in memory:
You became air,
There is no sadness here, no despair, but an incredible balance, a mature and intelligent sweetness. Indeed, each poem in this collection possesses a consistent tranquility that radiates out from Morling's center, her poet's voice. However, Morling's tranquility is also one that takes in all of , all of life's obligations, her meditations are unselfish, clear in their assessment. The poor, the blind, her family members, are in her thoughts, but always there is the sweet consideration:
This too is for my sister(from "For Joseph Cornell")
Whether God exists in this world or not seems almost irrelevant (or unanswerable) for Morling. She is an observer of the "invisible wedding of the present moment," in a sense she is poetry's St. Therese of Liseaux who sees the holiness of the moment. In the poem "May All Beings Have Happiness and the Causes of Happiness," Morling reflects as she watches her son sleeping, enters the boy's dream, while at the same time, observant of the physical world. She is always inside and outside of the dream of life.
And insideBut Morling is not stuck in an unreal dream, but like a saint adjusting her prayer, she remembers the poor and the elderly, and her paralyzed friend Julia:
My paralyzed friend Julia
But she closes the circle, returns to her son's dream, sees its purity, sees how it is free of the absolutes of past and future.
And in there,
Morling does touch quite frequently on death and misfortune, but they are always placed within a context, balanced out, always leaving the reader with the feeling that Morling has succeeded in showing you how to "slice butter in heaven." And Heaven, the sky, is always present in Morling's poems, its clouds racing over our existence, part of a movement that never stops.
How wondrous strange it was at that momentMalena Morling is a poet whose inner calm works wonders in an age of violence.