BY JACKLYN JANEKSELA
With the opening line like this
Sorry to hear you haven’t been in
love for the longest time,
you know, without a shadow of a doubt or the negation of your shadow self, that you want to read further and get as entangled as you possibly can in Wild Heather (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017) by Siân S. Rathore.
Jesus, we’ve all been there—either the giver or receiver of that phase. And that’s enough to hook us into Wild Heather for the duration of its spinning pages, spinning a cocoon in which to envelop each reader under different pretenses. Perhaps you came to heal a wounded heart, bleed along with the Rathore, or unmask self and selves—whatever the reason, Siân S. Rathore’s poetic memoir conjures feelings of being both being free and trapped inside that cocoon. It’s only a matter of time before we all become jelly, then liquid, preparing the DNA to build a new body, a new life, a new identity among the wild heather that grows all around.
Surely, this game of hide and seek, cat and mouse is just another metaphor for finding and losing self, but in Wild Heather it feels abysmal. But not one of those profundities that might make the reader shake in their non-gendered boots or stockings—no, not of that sort. It’s an abyss where we are compelled to go, to explore in order to come out the other side a new human. Rathore takes us there, without abandon. She seems to be saying, Hold my hand, I’m here with you, let’s frolic the fuck out of these flesh suits and see what happens. And who doesn’t want to frolic with a poetic soul who writes "The Beautiful Outlaw," poem without vowels /a/ or /e/ or dedicates poems to literary figures? It’s a book to stay with all day and return again later to see what revelations will transpire.
The pages ooze memory. Be warned, they might feel like your own and you might feel like crying. Yes, Rathore gets to your heart like that. A bit of artifice for imagination, perhaps, a bit of tit for tat as the poems roll out as a though unwrapping a broken heart. The bandages fall away and we’re left with crystal clear memories, sharp enough to cut, yet melodic enough to bring two bodies together for a slumbered waltz. The sonic backdrop that of which Rathore mentions: Kate Bush, The Cure, Nirvana.
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The duality of self is highlighted in "One Of Your Faces Is Sincere, The Other One Is Obscene." The audacity of "I Was Going to Make You Get the Train Just to See if You Would." The sheer vulnerability in "I Wish You Could Dance the Same as Before." And this is only the first half of Wild Heather, Dearly Beloved; we’ve still got to tackle and romance the hell out of We Are Gathered Here Today.
We Are Gathered Here Today burgeons with sadness that doesn’t diverge from the melancholic Dearly Beloved, yet it does dive and dwell inside places like institutions and hospitals of a 12th house or death and secrets of the 8th. Instantly hit with lines like,
You were too much. Even for me. How you
leapt from tall buildings, floating safely with
the wind billowing beneath your tails.
But I can’t keep dedicating
all of my sunsets
you are simultaneous living the pain and observing it. It’s almost too much for the reader to swallow. But swallow we must for this is poetic porridge made in a magical forest.
With the back to back pairing of gems like "Mercury" and "God Will Find the Pattern and Break It" words invade our bodies as though some drug or scalpel. Dissection cannot be avoided as, page by page, Wild Heather rips us open and bears witness to a pain so long forgotten—we’ve got to realize that we’re denying self a healing ritual and the ability to unearth secrets. Rathore reminds us to look inside the mirror, not just on the surface: both terrifying and delightful—as any art should be, really.
Being honest about love and life, for how can one distinguish between the two, can be summed up in a line from "Break Free," what shows itself as winter is the summer we had lost. Unrequited or simply lost, we are reminded by Rathore that being out here alone makes us stronger, but love happens whether we seek it or not—it’s inevitable. A love between two is fierce and fantastical, but it teaches us to be feverish about self-love, too.
From sigil magic to soul travel and glimpses like, I watched you grow back into a human, I was patient and no - there were no lights guiding me, I did it all blind and I did not look back and masterpieces like "Spoiler Alert: She Was a Ghost The Whole Time" and "Spirit World Rising" —it’s no wonder Wild Heather was the number one seller at CCP AWP table.
In Wild Heather, we go inside the head of Rathore as lover, as friend, as non-binary human, kin, and yet none of the above, however everything plus more. We are brought into the fold, we watch the cuckold, and we thank the universe for heavy moments for without them, the muse would not be able to animate Rathore, to allow the spindling of poetic births and mutations of witchy proportions. A classic conjuring of Sexton or Tzara’s stream of consciousness writing. All the greats have done it, Rathore no different, following suit and instinct alike.
Reading Rathore’s work is like reading clips of our own disgruntled, youthful love buds, sprung and dying, but a dying that’s of body and artifice; not soul—not of these old-fashioned hearts that fight the fuck out of live and love simultaneously. It feels exactly like this, no less, no more,
Your fingers in my mouth felt like a gun
those fingers, that translated your words into
remarkable magic, they had their own way of
saying your name, burying it deep inside of me.
jacklyn janeksela is a wolf and a raven, a cluster of stars, & a direct descent of the divine feminine. she can be found @ Pank, Split Lip, Landfill, Yes Poetry, The Opiate, Vending Machine Press, Entropy; A Shadow Map (CCM) & Rooted anthology (Outpost 19); & elsewhere. she is in a post-punk band called the velblouds. her baby @ femalefilet. her chapbook, fitting a witch // hexing the stitch (The Operating System, 2017). she is an energy. find her @ hermetic hare for herbal astrology readings.