Book Review: High Tide By Ed Meek

A look at the latest work from poet Ed Meek, an enticing compilation entitled High Tide that acts as a “reckoning with one’s self; between one’s past and present, a sort of homecoming without a home…”

by: Carolynn Kingyens

Ed Meek’s latest collection of poems, High Tide, is an exquisite reckoning with one’s self; between one’s past and present, a sort of homecoming without a home. There’s a beautiful vulnerability present, along with a palpable sadness in High Tide that speaks directly to the human condition. For example, in the poem, “Talking to Yourself,” Meek writes:

You can’t get up, can’t look away, you’re

uncomfortable in your own skin, like a dog in a drought —

if you could move, you’d get a drink or take a bath. Your

throat so dry you can’t swallow. You can’t swallow it all

anymore, the strangers who occupy your house — your wife

and children — as distant as the relatives who raised you.

You knew them all once, long ago, in another country you

called home.

Continuing with the same theme in “Gypsy Moth,” Meek compares the quiet desperation of a moth to our own distress:

Now they’re stressed like the rest of us,

susceptible to fungus and disease.

Thwacking into window screens

desperately searching like the rest of us

for the light.

There are political poems, too, that lend a thoughtful perspective to the state of American politics. In the poem, “Encomium for the God of Nothingness,” Meek reminds us:

This is where we are — on the verge.

Just over the edge — chaos.

In the poem, “Make America Great Again,” he examines the connection between Trump’s notorious motto and the reasons why so many Americans take offense to it, offering a reminder how problematic earlier times in American history authentically were:

Let’s take America back

to the straitjacket

of the 1950s —

when women knew

their place

and cops let

domestic abuse

slide, divorcees

were outcast

and the church

lied for priests

who brought altar boys

to their knees.

…The good old days

when no women

or Jews were allowed,

Blacks were happier

with their own kind

and America could do

no wrong.

Some poems connect to each other faultlessly, such as with “The Poetry Motel” and “In the Poetry Motel.” With these two poems, in particular, there is a slight dread reminiscent of the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive:

You drew the drapes and sure enough — a view of the mountains —

hazy blue in the distance, peaks lost in white mist. You

had been here before you felt suddenly, as the first rays of

sunlight cut through the haze.

And “In the Poetry Motel,” the plot thickens:

You hear in the back of your ear a faint strain

of music — something so familiar. It seems to be

coming from the back of the room. Then you

notice another door.

You try the key and it opens. A radio on

the desk is playing the music you heard. In the

corner in the shadows someone sits. She beckons

with a crooked finger, come closer. She has

something to tell you. You bend down to listen.

She is old and frail. She whispers in a foreign

tongue.  It could be Latin or Greek. You seem to

know some of the words. When she waves you

off you return to the desk in your room. You try

to make sense of it.

Throughout Meek’s book, there are nautical undertones, little reminders that high tide is coming in, fast. That moment when you call it a day at the beach, and begin to pack up all the gear — those old patchwork blankets, rainbow-colored umbrellas, and black scuff coolers with lids that don’t seem to ever want to close.

In the poem, “High Tide,” a young Meek relishes his limited time with his parents on the beach, before his brother and sisters are born, calling them “those uninvited guests,” who “crashed the party.”  He writes:

Before we left we’d weave along

the shore, heads down

in search of shells.

I walked between them —

one on each hand. The three of us

happy as clams at high tide.

In his poem, “Drifting Home,” he resides in a dream state — you know the voice of the clock/ is an echo in a vacuum/ and what’s lost hangs like a broken door. Meek continues:

But it is your mother the ocean

who drifts in waves in your sleep

and years pass by in a dream. The Sioux

called this the shadow world.

In his poem, “Praise for Ponytailed Girls Who Run,” Meek becomes the acute observer:

And the hair, lovely,

surely not dead

but vibrant with life and light

as it sways and bobs

like a rope swing in the wind

above the water.

I read Ed Meek’s High Tide the same day I’d received it. I wasn’t planning to read his latest collection in one sitting, but once I began, I could not put it down. Curled up with his book and a soft, gray blanket, my blonde, beagle-lab mix resting at my side, I could’ve easily been on a New England beach instead of on my bed in Brooklyn. Time and place didn’t matter as I read each poem slowly, savoring one delicious line after the next.

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