In stunning language that is delicate and raw, Golden draws on her family’s Tennessee roots, as well as the distinctive experience of growing up in a conservative Christian culture. The poems move the reader, sometimes to sadness and sometimes to anger, with the disappointments of religion and its broken promises. In “When they told me he was knocking,” Golden writes about God not as an omnipotent protector or a benevolent father but as a presence that “hacked and carved himself the space/I hadn’t left him.” The desperation, and ultimate unfulfillment, of believers is sharply revealed in “(For Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh and Blood),” in which Golden addresses the deity, “we’d cut you open, drain you dry/to drink that blood, bathe in it, see if there’s any/power in it—that ancient wine/But you don’t have a heart.” The stark and minimalist black and white photography of Michael Wilson beautifully underscores the book’s moods and heightens the sense of place created in its pages.
Golden’s poems raise evocative questions about the nature of religion and its domineering relationship to those who follow it. The book’s final poem, “Once You Had Hands” keenly articulates the loss and relief felt in leaving religion: “I only know/how long I keep dreaming, asking,/How long, Lord?.../I soak my pillow, shirt, and wake/with one hand firm against my brow./It isn’t yours.” Her poignant style will haunt the reader long after the book has been finished.
Tasha Golden is the frontwoman and songwriter for the critically-acclaimed band Ellery (www.ellerymusic.com). Her songs have been heard in major motion pictures, TV dramas, radio, and more. Her poetry and prose have been published in Pleaides, Ethos Journal, and Coldnoon Poetics, among others. She researches the impact of the arts on social silences, and blogs for Ploughshares literary journal.