Parts per Trillion by Claudine Nash
A Poetry Collection Review
Kim D. Bailey
Claudine Nash was gracious to ask me to review her poetry book, Parts per Trillion, late last year and send a copy to me for said review. I read it back in December, but soon afterward was suddenly separated from my ex-husband and in a situation where finding work and shelter became paramount. Therefore, I shelved this review—until now.
After reading these intense, authentic, and gut-wrenching poems—again—after the emotional ups-and-downs I went through the last few months, I found they held more meaning and a stronger dose of healing for me.
Claudine takes us on a journey of life wherein there is loss, grief, a fiery but loving struggle to climb out of the abyss, to call out what is there—and what is not—and to give meaning to these life transformations that, when we allow them to, lead us to catharsis and healing.
I cannot name each poem, line, or stanza here. I wish I could. Claudine’s command of language, imagery, enjambment, and metaphor is sometimes gentle, and sometimes like a boxer punching for that final round. Her words are economical, providing the most bang for each uttered syllable, and they weave a tapestry of transformation from beginning to inevitable end.
In the titled poem, “Parts per Trillion,” she pulls the reader into the atomic level of pain and loss within:
“After passing another morning/with you in mind,/it strikes me how I may only/be one whisker away/from the Dachshund who/detects illness brewing/beneath his handler’s skin,/from the Lab who smells time/through the decline of her human’s/odors across the course/of the morning hours./I confess how easily/I could be found sniffing/at staircases like this,/tracking the past in parts/per trillion.”
Later, in “The Unanswered,” Claudine speculates how some losses will never be explained:
“You can search/the negative space/around and between/for weeks without end,/and still never see it./The rising moon/won’t toss you a clue,/and for better or worse,/the headstones aren’t/talking.”
In “Scar Tissue,” a poem about telling and retelling the story of our scars, Claudine ends the poem with:
“Skin seals over, tissue shifts,/but nerves and sentence/structure never entirely/realign./No amount of first/aid or oral history can/completely dampen our/hands.”
And finally, in “That True Voice,” she reaches the final stage of grief, whereupon acceptance and healing bring about transformative words given to what has happened, and what is to come:
“For that first hour each morning,/before the household rises,/before the tasks of rushing and/receiving the hoarse sounds/of the day’s business, before/it can be out-sung by/those cold opinions from/without and within,/it hums in hopeful/resistance,/this self that is trying/not just to live,/that true voice/that dares to thrive.”
With beautiful command and grace, Claudine tells the story of loss, love, and rebirth. Her poetry collection, Parts per Trillion, is a must-have for any poet or reader of poetry.