“The Leaf Does Not Believe It Will Fall,” By Marina Brown

Marina Brown

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro

Marina Brown’s The Leaf Does Not Believe It Will Fall is, in a word, genuine. Written with heartfelt honesty and thoughtful insights, this collection of poetry is both eloquent and graceful.
Brown’s poems find that delicate balance between exposure and restraint, leaving a touch of mystery. The craftsmanship is consistently well done, and emotions roar through with force and feeling. Visuals are often startling with their impact, and always shaped with an artist’s sharp eye for the meaningful and the beautiful, like this description: “daubs of light, chartreuse and ruby, opaline blues, bounding titanium pools that throbbed like heartbeats.”

In her prose poem, “The Journey,” Brown uses a simple image to create a complex reaction:

On another autumn day, under an azure sky,
a deer will lift its head in the forest
and move its nose to the wind.

It’s no surprise that the visual images are so expressive, as the poet is also an artist whose paintings show a similar feel for humanity, grace, and the beauty of simple movement.

In The Leaf Does Not Believe it Will Fall, the poet offers her readers an intimate glance into her world. As a poet, author, artist, musician and bold world traveler, Brown’s experiences and vision are broad, yet personal and sensitive. Some works are confessional, some have a tender gloss of the pastoral, a few sing with charming iambic pentameter, and many reveal an intellectual’s thoughtful point of view. Yet all are imminently reachable.

The collection is divided into six sections, including “The Seasons’ Turn,” “Visits with the Muse,” “Traveling in Time,” “The Tides of Love,” “Loss and Metamorphosis,” and “A Place of Solace.” The titles at first suggest that themes of loss, love, change, and transformation might dominate the volume. But there’s more to the collection than just those. Poems like “Spring’s Morning” ring with a fevered desire to experience all life offers:

I want a bee to land on my hand,
for us both to feel unafraid.
I want to watch a mosquito rides its raindrop from a cloud.
I want the squirrel to love me and lay an acorn at my feet.
I want my soul awakened from its deepening sleep.

The poet’s yearning to experience the world also finds expression in her travel poems, which capture her passion for exploration and adventure. In “Ethiopia—the Road to Abra Minch,” both the artist’s eye and the musician’s sense of sound become evident in the meter and images:

Streaks of yellow flash by my window
As weaver birds race for first place
Atop the roof’s thick
Round thatch,

Squadrons are airborne,
Platoons rest amidst acacia thorns
And a battalion of grackles walk in procession
Beside a hummingbird drinking deeply from a glowing
Yellow iris.

As if sung from a Tower of Babel,
Accents of insects and birds flow through the air,
A squeaking, a popping, trills and clicks,
Rhythmic hoots, whirring and whines,
Polyphonic changes, that with a monk’s ribbon of song to
The dusty rising sun,
Reminds the earth of its brotherhood.

Brown captures anxiety, fear, and loss in “Emergency Room”:

But someplace near, inhaling air gone stale,
A number behind a curtained wall,
Her fingers move, the talking shadows traced,
Feeling for a life that cracked and fell like a porcelain cup
From which the tasty juice has dried.

Perhaps the most moving—and certainly one of the more complex and philosophical in the collection—is the poem which contains the line that becomes the title. In “The Goose’s Walk,” Brown confronts unexpected death. The goose who walked into the path of a car, “the man with the knife before he will murder,” and other sudden moments of demise and change set up the poem for the ultimate line:

And so—with the goose—marching forward into life’s traffic,
too late for anticipation,
teetering on the cusp of an outcome unknown,
I look toward the trees,
And sense that like me,
the leaf does not believe it will fall.

These poems resonate with life and wonder and passion—and should make readers look anew at the world around them. If the test of a poem is whether it makes you feel something, then Brown scores high with this collection.

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