Heart Berries by Terese M. Mailhot
Counterpoint Press, February 2018
160 pages / Amazon
“People come along and they grace your life, and they make it extraordinary.”—Terese Mailhot
That’s what thunder does, when it lives in someone in this way.
Terese Mailhot’s Heart Berries showed up in my mailbox sometime late yesterday.
I picked it up this morning and finished my first reading before noon.
At page 40 in this generously sent (and so I feel cheap and mean somehow when I write this but it’s this goddamn book that tells me it’s ok to do so, and even to call upon god to damn it) ARC, there is a run of nine overly-crafted lines, of five sentences, 85 words, 326 letters, and 11 punctuation marks that act like a single dark bead buried at the edge of a field of bright yellow beadwork, to remind us that should we think ourselves too perfect, we offend the intentions of creation. That bead here is an irruption, in no way an interruption; one that serves to remind us, no, to instruct us, of our smallness before the universe, but also our necessity to it. We stand, that one small bead, limned in soft light against the globe’s night sky, melding into all the universe requires yet retaining our own form through story, near imperceptible, but obvious of course upon closer inspection. The final creation is imperfect, as it should be. Humans can never be perfect; perfection is reserved for the one who has made us all. But this is what has happened here: In her creation of an imperfect, there has been made a space for us to imagine perfect, to imagine our stories are worthy, and worthwhile, and thus in need of a future. This perfectly imperfect conception gives us that vision.
As we might expect, redemption for the bead arrives, art eclipsing the moment of craft in the penultimate paragraph of “In a Pecan Field,” the grand beauty of inaugurating life at its most joyful moment captured in a way that can be written only by a giver of life. Stunning, and shattering, the words lay on the page looking back at the reader, daring you to respond. Your ability might be a little rusty, tongue sort of dry, you likely having had your mouth hanging open since you picked up the book and started this journey. That will continue to happen as you move across the dense yet ethereal pages, each packed with a story you want to hear, but don’t want to see, your vision focused apprehensively on what comes next, your breath in check so you can pick up each nuance of voice, each judgment and instruction contingent on your focus, and your engagement, the rhythm of the work dependent on your heart beating along.
The weather, though, the weather for the journey is perfect. The sun never comes out in any of the vignettes, the sections, segments then maybe, of this longer, whiplash worm that greys its way through the lines of the book. We are ever on the verge of a window-rattling rain in the anticipation built for each page, as our fingers tremble and hum like the air just before the first thunder booms in spring’s true return. This difficult text, provocative, accusatory, deeply reflective and raw, will long give you pause, make you consider more heavily those moments before you speak, and like those early storms, will make you jump with its unpredictability, veering between snapping and caressing those bones that build their cage around our spirit.
My own heart shook for you as I thought about your having to wait two more months for this work to make it over your way. But now that it’s here, think about it the same way you do the year’s first strawberries. They might be hard to find and harder to get at, but there is nothing else like them, anywhere.
Terese Mailhot has given us something to help us make it through so much, so many of those hard, hard things we might face. It’s certainly true that into each life a little rain must fall. But count yourself lucky that along with that rain, every now and again you’ll get yourself some thunder.