A Doorless Knocking Into Night

Poems by Lexi Rudnitsky
Mid-List Press, 2006

Review by Sherman Pearl

My friends Anne Silver was a tragi-comic Los Angeles poet who spent her last two years completing a book of poems about living with the cancer and took her in 2005. The book, "Bare Roots", was published before her death. She had time to distribute it and doe readings from it. Though she left us too soon, her work was done.

Lexi Rudnitsky was taken at age 32, near the beginning of a terrifically promising career. One can't read this collection--her first and last published book--without lamenting that the potential that flashes through the work will not be realized. But what else it shows, perhaps more importantly, is a life lived fully and felt deeply. She left us gems of sadness and endurance and wry humor...not a bad legacy from so brief a life.

These poems travel the world, from Mexico to San Francisco, Phoenix to Broadway, the Painted Desert to Naples. In each place the exterior setting colors the interior landscape. In the poem "Capodanno", for instance, this scene:

In Naples on New Year's,
I finally understood what it was about fireworks:

Not that unchoreographed bursts of light and color--
like the creches in front of each house--
were crude enactments of love.

Or that everyone seemed to be doing it...

But that I could watch them from my hotel room,
high above the city.

Love and its longings...the recurrent eternal themes; peported here with disarming candor and moving, sometimes painful metaphors. Death and loss also visit these page. In the opening poem, "Malaria", they are greeted with wrenching insight:

This is a different decadence.
Mosquitoes gather by puddles
on the dirt floor. Rain warps
the splintered board I sleep on.
Outside: explosions or thunder,
murder or disease.
A doorless knocking into night

Rudnitsky's book is perhaps best summarized by the eminent poet Richard Howard, who contributed its introduction. "What it tells," he writes, "is the poet's story--of damages incurred, of humiliations swallowed, and survived, and made hay of...This young woman is poetically stacked, stocked, stoked...I have indulged my predilection for her gifts, graces and grits..."

Along with Howard, we can only regret that there will be no more.