by Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
Mulberry Hill Press

"Now, even in the midst of this suffocating grief,
it would seem most ungracious and greedy
to have asked for

Spanning from when the poet was a mere sixteen years old to her early nineties, Hjelmstad’s compilation is unquestionably heartfelt and authentic. It is a work that honors not only her late husband, Les, but also the countless love stories that inevitably get interrupted due to time. From hope and fear to gratitude amidst the threat of fleeting time, Hjelmstad’s poetry stirs the soul.

Readers walk down memory lane, visiting the relics and mementos of a life built on the monument of love. Broken into a timeline of her life by years, numerous poems stand out, but few are greater than “Epiphany,” a simple poem on the surface that is deeply thought-provoking. Its message is that we never think something will happen to us until it does. In the early sections, the poems vividly paint Les as fiercely passionate, whether that manifests itself as a doting father, compassionate husband, or a member of the U.S. Navy. The “beating beating beating” of the drums in “In the Shadows of Hiroshima” allows the poet to awaken the auditory senses, while in “Summer Love,” the imagery of “a moonlit stream” is the evocative technique of her choosing.

Whereas “Epiphany” is philosophically riveting, “No Tomorrow” is raw and gut-wrenching, delivering prose that shows how the ravages of time can transform an individual into a shell of himself. The latter half of the collection is part nostalgia, part yearning, an outlet for processing Hjelmtad’s grief at the loss of her husband of seventy-three years, perhaps best captured in “The Yard.” Hjelmstad bares her soul, both in love and loss. Her poetry is a valiant effort to honor her husband’s memory and, in so doing, becomes a voice for many who are enduring the same grief.

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