Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story by Donna Vorreyer
Paperback: 78 pages
Publisher: Sundress Publications (2016)
Purchase: @ Sundress Publications
Review by S.J. Stout
Perhaps I should create a whole
language, a number system, a mountain of
hieroglyphs. It might take less time.
When I first heard about Donna Vorreyer’s new poetry collection from Sundress Publications, Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story, my ears pricked up. I have long been arguing to friends, potential partners, and anyone who will listen about how love stories are just science fiction when you get right down to it.
Your lover fills your every thought—(alien takeover)— your identities merge—(Jack Finney, Invasion of the Body Snatchers)—and when you split, the resulting vertigo can leave you in limbo for months, years, or actually what is time—(H.G. Wells, When the Sleeper Wakes)—?
Vorreyer is no stranger to these themes of loss and disaster. Reeling from a love exploded, Vorreyer’s speaker scavenges— “Give me a language for this/ache.”—in dictionaries, ancient history, in the oxidation of an urn, among distant stars, and seemingly under every stone. But the words she finds aren’t quite right. In an especially radical, Stein-ian proposition, Vorreyer states, “I must change the names for everything:/the sunlight, a length of yellow string;”
Every Love Story is written in three parts: “No Quick Misery,” “There Has Been Damage,” and “We Feast on This Believing.” The sections unravel as a three-course meal. First the appetizer, teasing and prickling:
I will break one dry bone
from your limbs
and row a midnight whirlpool,
trace one white promise
on your lips
and call it a whale.
Then the middle, the slow burn:
You are a mark that will not wash from
my skin, a hush rustling inside my skull.
This section ushers us into Vorreyer’s long, sleepless night. Even here though, the pain scatters. She mingles blunt facts with a light touch.
Muscles stretched tight
bones, I know this is
birds soaring from envelopes,
the alphabet like seeds
Her last poem in this section, “Trigger,” is a stunning explosion. Here memory and fire sync—deadly. The reader is launched into the final fallout— the wake of the apocalypse, and of course, in its own way, dessert. But what a strange dessert this is!
The lovers seem to unite again, but in a more suspended dreamtime. The first poem here, “Day One Again” finds our lost lover under a sky that is “halfway scarlet—/dawn or dusk, I cannot tell.” Did we move forward or backward? The ambiguity is delicious.
When we met again, I noticed
something in the air— exhaust
or exhumation, a little hint
of rot beneath the sweet.
Is this heaven? Purgatory? A wish, a daydream, a promise, a distant memory? Vorreyer may keep her secrets close, but the invitation is clear: eat your heart out.
About the reviewer
S.J. STOUT is currently pursuing her masters in literature at West Virginia University. Her interests include contemporary fiction, performance, poetry, and critical theory. Her poems have been published at Rust+Moth, Cider Press Review, and Stirring: A Literary Collection.