Thomas K. Armstrong, my father, died in early January 2015, in his sleep of a heart attack. He had suffered, over the past six years, from Vascular Dementia (the lesser-known half of senility, Alzheimer’s being the more widely known form). A month before, in Dec. of 2014, I had been to see him. This chapbook contains poems and blogs about that visit and his subsequent death.
People deal with the death of a parent in many ways: denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, transference…it goes on and on. Grief has no timetable either so it may take years for that loss to resolve itself (or it may never happen). In my case, I turned to a projection of my dad as a black rabbit. Some might call this transference or an animal fetish; I dunno.
I had a dream after his death and in the dream…”Suddenly, something was thrust into my arms: a medium sized furry thing as black as this night, unidentifiable except for its two white, buck teeth. Then I knew it was a black rabbit. I could feel its heart racing in fear (but also alive!) and pulled it closer. But just as suddenly as it had appeared it now leaped out of my arms and bolted into the dark! I was devastated, thinking that it had been a gift from my father, that I had not understood what it was until it was too late and now it was gone for good (like the old man)…but then, out of the darkness, the rabbit came bounding and leapt into my arms again!
I awoke from this dream wondering what in the world did this mean? I knew enough about Native-American lore to realize that the black rabbit was my father’s spirit animal and that it would guide him through the death process; and this little black bunny would serve as a talisman for me, as well…” (from the Introduction to the chapbook).
RD Armstrong uses the power of poetry for his elegiac mythology of grief. Everyone who has ever been on earth has died, and we never get used to this. Poets especially have to speak/define/make sense of it. Armstrong’s natural strength as a writer uses an archetypal Rabbit as the central focus. This metaphor extends the glandular process of a body lost and born again. Armstrong commands the structure of prose narrative—as well as the economy of the poem— to memorialize his love for his father. In doing this, he brings everything to life again.
— Grace Cavalieri, “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress”
A black rabbit jumps into a bereaved dreamer’s arms, bounds out, comes back, leaves. RD Armstrong tracks it through dream, poem, memoir, waking life, waking dream, blues, and rain. This mixed genre tale of the poet’s loss of his real father and dreamed-of father, and coming to terms with it, is a stunner–– image-rich, narratively and descriptively tight and moving, emotionally powerful. The images and emotional honesty make the reader feel all the transformations of the dad and to the son in his journey of awakening.
— Jane Lipman, author of On the Back Porch of the Moon, winner of the 2013 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Poetry Book and a NM Press Women’s Award
You can read selections from this book, here.
40 pages; $12
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