by Ana Lorenza Jimenez
Something unspoken lingers here in this unusual book, a beautiful unspoken truth. The book explores the mystery of a compelling dislocation. Such is the Nevada landscape, and such is Sandstone and Silver: An Anthology of Nevada Poets (Zeitgeist Press). This anthology, edited by Clark County Poet Laureate Heather Lang-Cassera, sums up what it is to be a Nevadan. The subjects here range from the specific terrain of the Las Vegas desert to what it feels like to love as an elderly couple. This book surpasses the limits of the Silver State and illuminates the human condition. At the same time, Sandstone and Silver is pure Nevada.
There is universal longing for home in this book. At the same time, there is an acknowledgement that this home, Nevada, has an alien feeling around it. Jennifer Battisti articulates the odd feeling of her city in her poem “Worship”:
There were DJs with marshmallow heads, / artificial wave machines, anarchist lava lamps. Even the wordless / moon could not distract us.
She owns that feeling; desert simulacra is ours and we are fully consumed by it. Just as Ms. AyeVee speaks of “The Great Spirit . . . Ancestors. / Old Friends” who “Guide me home.” These lines wonderfully convey the sentiment that we, as humans, long to be carried by the wind to our real home.
Yet home is not always a place of peace, as Tara Phillips expresses in her poem “Twenty Miles from Sin City.” The poem speaks of a struggle: “Bouts of energy, glycogen depletion, / dribbles of sweat crease my eyebrows.” The poem ends with the speaker finding herself at home through this struggle: “my serenity centers me to believe / ‘I am home.’”
Struggle transforms into pain for the speaker of AJ Moyer’s poem, “In the Year of the Spaceman.” There is humor in his words, “My whole life is a spacesuit she farted in / and I can’t take off the helmet.” Yet at the same time a deep underlying pain. It is the pain that only plagues human beings in those tricky instances called relationships, a space where we want to feel at home yet rarely do.
The poems of Sandstone and Silver do not dwell on longing and pain, however. Rather, there is a call to action among these poems. Gilda Graham, in her poem, “Blue Bird,” declares that given the choice: “You must . . . / Soar through the clouds.” For Graham, home isn’t a place where you live, it’s the space of making choices. These choices are inspired by our circumstances and our own capacities.
Frank Johnson describes these capacities beautifully in these words: “There is wind in your palms / an ocean in those fronds / crashing / whispering God.” Home is where we find ourselves and what we find in ourselves.
Sandstone and Silver is home; Nevada, made human. Read it and feel it.
Sandstone and Silver, $14
Zeitgeist Press, 2020
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