Two eyes are you sleeping (78 pages, $12.95 paper), Montreal writer Heather O'Neill's first full-length poetry collection published through DC Books' New Writers series, is probably as close to perfect as a collection can get. Filled with passion and fury, rubbed raw, her poems illuminate the dark places that other contemporary writing doesn't see fit to light-whether enough or this well.
It is questionable whether a miracle could
when the night is tall as teeth
under its 60-watt halo
when everything already looks like a miracle.
The mango juice being poured into the Scotch
a brand new baby sparrow.
("The Roof is a Butterfly Pinned on my Knee")
Honest, hopeful, and cutthroat, O'Neill's poems have the feel of small poetic novels as she writes about single mothers on welfare, lovers and losers too young, drug use cause-and-effect, mistakes made, and even the ways to still see through or between them.
he never bothers me about the details, why
I'm lying on
a beach pregnant
drunk at five in the afternoon
he never asks. He brags all over the neighbourhood
about his daughter.
("We Bruise Our Own Eyes for Stars")
There is a dark and urban beauty, staggering in its ferocity, in Montreal writing such as hers or Anne Stone's or Robert Masjels', that other cities seem to miss: the physical capabilities are pushed in less polite ways, in the messy directions of alleys and soiled mattresses. "There is enough dirt in my mouth to grow a rose", she says ("When I Drop Something It Screams"). And when she does, I believe it, and I love her for it.