Rachel Richmond reviews Cold Angel of Mercy

Cold Angel of Mercy Amy Randolph. Red Hen (CDC, dist.) $11.95 (72p) ISBN 1-888996-55-2

A nature-touched spirit penetrates Amy Randolph's book of thirty-eight poems. These poems are filled with dreams of a new beginning after divorce, heart-felt emotions of grief and love and experiences of life, good and bad, of death, divorce, and loss. Randolph conveys a down-to-earth attitude with a respect for nature and immense understanding of life.

Randolph starts the book off with a poem entitled, "Angel":

I go back to January, back to the farmhouse

with its soft golden eyes, the dog pens

and fallen fence posts gloved in snow.

In this first stanza Randolph personifies the farmhouse, which gives a feeling of untended warmth. In the second stanza the idea of a death that is relived every night consumes the poem, as it would consume you with grief to live a death every day:

This is where a woman gets buried late at night,

over and over, under the blindness

of stars, wind clapping in the ears. There are lanterns,

picks and shovels, the crush of heavy shoes.

Randolph gives you the feeling that the memories of the dead woman are overwhelming, and yet there is a hint that she is not actually dead. "I love the ones who do this to her," provides the insight that she is a knowing participant of death. In the final stanza Randolph reveals that the death is that of herself and not another woman, to bring the poem to a close:

I name her "angel"

or "self." Beyond the fenceline, a thin sheet of snow

rises like a bride's veil. This is home, such grief and unfolding.

Not all the poems showcased in this book are as eye-opening as "Angel," but they do make you stop and think about the little things in life, such as nature, which we often take for granted. Randolph's poems entitled "Small Breakthroughs," for example, makes you appreciate these little things in life that you sometimes let pass you by, without notice.

Two hackberry branches

Float downstream.

Cutting ants carry late summer,

piece by piece

into the earth. Hours slide deadbolts

behind us.

The idea that the hours that have passed are locked away really brings into perspective that every minute is important and that you can't go back and change what has already been done. As time passes we will not be able to get that time back so we must make the most of it and enjoy the little things that surround us everyday. One such important moment in life is the realization of the want and need for love.

Randolph captures the moment in her poem "To Robert, Waiting in Greece for His Bride":

Even then, I knew I wanted

hands like yours " the turning of pages, the graceful finger-tracing

of backbone and thigh " to wed themselves to me.

In this poem Randolph gives you the sense that she knows who she wants and there is a longing for love from this person. This longing is portrayed as something that had been overlooked in the past but now is very dominant in her life:

Every hour is a crossing over, from the old lives


in their basement rooms, the old lives chewing on nothing

but empty space that once held them upright.

I walk dry pastures that stretch on until they fall into the earth. I



across silvers of bones that must have been me.

In the last stanza you get the feeling that it is only after she cannot have this person that she realizes how important he was to her.

Throughout the book Randolph shows growth and encapsulates major life lessons, which help define what it is to grow up, live, love and to experience loss. At some point in life almost everyone takes a step back from their beliefs and tries to figure out if faith is really what they want, need or even believe in. "Moving Out" uses faith and the idea of freedom to symbolize personal growth:

Remove him. Detach, and let him rise

above you, a cadence of flight

just below the yellow wheel

of lamplight.

And some hours are pure lapses

of faith.

In the first stanza Randolph refers to "him" as God, so with this stanza she is writing about removing God from her life. That is a normal part of growing up; he idea that God is not there for you and that you should just stop believing, most often comes with the loss of someone close to you. Randolph relives the first loss as that of her mother, and then of others whom she was close to. At that point the detachment is not from God but from those people she loved:

A death is being sung now

within the circle of daughters.

Detach and sing with them.

The last stanza brings this detachment full circle and reinforces the idea that is is time for her to be removed and detached so that someone else can feel the loss.

Randolph's natural writing style, along with her life experience, help bring a sense of familiarity to each poem in this book. She uses line breaks, her word choices, and a constant voice to guide the reader on a journey of life through her poems. The common words that fill the pages do not overwhelm readers yet bring them back to their own hopes, dreams and losses with ease.

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