Flowers on the Wall by Kristiana Reed
Review by John W. Leys
I first encountered the poetry of Kristiana Reed on her blog My Screaming Twenties and very quickly became a fan of her writing. Last year Reed published her first poetry collection, Between the Trees, which was a fantastic poetry cycle telling the story of her emotional life. The depth of her poetry and her skills as a writer belie her youth, like many great poets and writers Reed seems to house an old soul, or at least a soul prematurely aged by experience. I devoured Between the Trees and looked forward to reading more of Reed’s work in the future. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that she was publishing a follow up to Between the Trees so soon after that books release. I was not at all disappointed.
Flowers on the Wall begins with the poem ‘I Will,’ which is Reed’s meditation on identity and change: Who she was and who she is.
I will bloom and I will wilt
alongside the seasons;
again and again,
In this short piece she recognizes that she is not who she once was and acknowledges the cycle of life, blooming and wilting: good times and bad, success and failure; ups and downs. This poem sets the tone for the rest of the collection, which is very much concerned with both the past and the present. There is a certain amount of melancholy detected as she casts her poet’s eye into the past. She reflects on her scars, their meaning, and the memories each represents in ‘Tattoos of the Living,’ positing that those with perfect unscarred skin may not have really been living their lives to the fullest.
I call them ‘tattoos
of the living’;
the signs you’ve done
more than sleep and eat,
and cry and repeat.
The following poems are a cascade of memories of times past and one can’t help but sense at times a sad longing for these friends and loves of long ago. And who cannot relate to that longing for simpler times (or at least times that seem simpler in comparison to the present).
The poem ‘Flowers on the Wall,’ from which the collection takes its name, is a poem about Reed’s mother painting flowers on her bedroom wall. It’s a sweet tribute to mothers whose seemingly smallest gestures can mean so much to their children:
Even after all of these years,
the heartbreak and the pain,
she still paints flowers
on my bedroom walls;
she helped me hang curtains;
string fairy lights;
sew cushion covers;
and taught me how to keep
the fifty pence antique mirror
we bought at the school fete,
when I was the girl
sitting cross legged in the centre
of her mother’s magic.
She invokes her mother’s “magic” than transcends time and pain Having lost my own mother very recently, this poem resonated with me a great deal. And while my mother never painted flowers on my walls, there are countless magical acts she performed that shine a light on me to this day.
The collection ends with ‘My open palms,’ a poem of hope and giving. Reed doesn’t state who this poem is directed at. Is it a lover? A family member? A friend? She leaves that piece of information for the reader to provide for themselves. She speaks of gifts she wishes to bestow: Hope and Love. It is a slightly sad poem, for one gets the impression that the person being spoken to is lacking these things. The poet also offers a wish, a wish for nothing but good, a wish for the strength to carry this loved one from Hades, as Orpheus led Eurydice, but without looking back. It is a sweet wish to save someone she loves from darkness. And who among us has not wished for that in our lives?
One can also, if they wish, see this image of the poet, arms outstretched with palms open, offering gifts, as addressing the reader. The gifts of hope, love, and wishes of salvation are the poems offered forth in this very collection.
Flowers on the Wall is an amazing collection of heartfelt and well-crafted poetry. Kristiana Reed has produced a worthy successor to the amazing Between the Trees, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.