Loneliness is made tangible in Tresha Faye Haefner’s hands. Her second poetry collection, Take This Longing, does the seemingly impossible by allowing readers to see love, the grief of breakup, and healing through new eyes. A 2013 Pushcart nominee and winner of the Robert and Adelle Schiff Poetry Prize, Haefner first published The Lone, Breakable Night (OutoftheBlue Poetry Press).
In Take This Longing, Haefner effectively employs a malleable “you” in either second-person point of view or direct address that varies in target audience from being her cyber lover, a poet who lives across country and has a girlfriend, to the general reader, or sometimes subtly merges the “you” to indicate both. Early in “Cyber Affair With a Poet Staying in a Hotel Room Next to the House Where Emily Dickinson Used to Live.,” for instance, she evokes Dickinson with an allusion to her “Because I could not stop for death.” Using first-person plural, she then establishes: “We lie on opposite sides/of the country, sharing the room/of a common lexicon.” Later, the persona tells her man that “Outside Emily sleeps underground./Your girlfriend tosses/on a distant sheet” and “In this room the night fills/with breathing, as you stroke my spine.” It becomes apparent, however, that in the final stanza, “like some stranger looking for kindness/before the carriage arrives/that is kindly coming for you” that intent, which includes her lover, is universal.
Haefner’s work is one of connect and disconnect. Thematically, it is about love and loss. Linguistically, it is about the connect and disconnect of ideas or images between poems and as threads throughout sections or linking the whole. Her writing is masterful as the “blue whale tattoo” in “Following You into the Field” is followed by “Blue Whales in August” and blue whales become, in fact, a motif used throughout the chapbook. In the final stanzas of “Blue Whales,” the poet pens:moving through water, the heaviness of belonging to the unseen darkness of earth, where only sonar reaches through waves finding us alone in the night ocean where we live.
She merges the experience of being a blue whale with that of the human journey and allows this theme to swim in and out of poetry from Part I through the final piece in Part III, always building upon the extended metaphor.
Similarly, in Part II of her collection, Haefner employs extended metaphor, consistent from poem to poem, in which she alludes to the Greek mythological characters of Orpheus and Eurydice to explain the grief involved in the affair’s end; Orpheus is the lover, and Eurydice, the first-person persona. In this version, however, Eurydice is left pregnant and has difficulty giving birth, until, as exemplified in “Eurydice, Minstrel”:Night by night I weave from my body, this child, our history. Narrative thread, I pull from my own winding sheet till it is strong enough to stretch over the belly of the instrument I am growing from memory, and learning to pluck after the silence, and the singing of the dead.
In addition to depicting the onset of acceptance that the relationship is over, the above stanzas also show Haefner’s efficacious use of surprising line breaks. This poet is not adverse to risks. In several works, rather than emerging the reader completely in the water of the text’s experience, she reminds us that, in fact, we are reading, and she is writing—successfully.
Accessible and relatable, yet smart and unanticipated,Tresha Faye Haefner’s collection, Take This Longing, is well worth reading. Just when you think that a thread has frayed, the artisan weaves it through another piece of textile, and what a fine piece of tapestry she creates.