The second collection of poems by the award-winning Dayton, Tennessee author KB Ballentine explores cycles, how light, and shadow affect nature and people. Begin the journey and chase the changing months in the moon poems. Linger within them as language wraps around illusion. Pursue ambiguous, intangible feelings that are as difficult to grasp as shifting light.
Move with KB through the season’s shadow and light. Each requires the other. Adversity attempts to cover light with its darkness. But, though the moon waxes and wanes, fragments of light are never extinguished.
Fragments of Light
“KB Ballentine sheds new light on old light. Her words of wisdom make your spirit come alive and travel the back roads of her mind where you encounter the seasons of her genius.”
–Margaret Britton Vaughn
Poet Laureate of Tennessee
“KB Ballentine’s poems display a painter’s sense of the ever-shifting, never-the-same light as it reveals, caresses, sometimes stuns. Light depicts both the outer natural world as well as the inner life of observer/speaker of these poems and exposes painful experiences as in the lines: “I’ve buried a sister, a friend. When was the family string cut—/who brought the knife?” And not to be missed are the seasons of the moon, surely some of the best poems in Fragments of Light.”
–Jeff Daniel Marion, Father
“It’s true that KB Ballentine is an admirably precise descriptive poet, loyal to the conditions of the natural world: “Leaves crunch underfoot/as I trek to the lake. Brief barks/from the other side, then silence.” But it’s a limited truth. Her imagination—inhering in verbs and nouns where it does its best work—invites nature “indoors,” into her subjective life: “The falcon’s body arced by whorls /of wind”; “summers were best, day-light yawned early, /stayed awake late”; and (among my favorites) “in the woods my boots bruise Johnny / jump-ups and forget-me-nots.” In the first case, “whorls” renders the invisible visible; in the second, personification animates, with friendly wit, a child’s delight in the lengthening days of summer; the third marshals even more subtle techniques: diction both literal and figurative, a provocative enjambment, and the power of the accurately named. Indeed, it’s the names of those flowers that suggest their resistance, or protest, against the bruising boots.
So, enjoy being “seduced by the light” of Ballentine’s keen observations, but also read these poems alert to their osmosis of the world into the self: “Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe,” she instructs. With understated grace, that’s what KB Ballentine’s poems do.”
Goodbye to the Orchard
MFA Creative Writing Program Director, Lesley University
KB Ballentine teaches English and theatre arts to high school and college students when she’s not writing. She has attended writing academies in both America and Britain. Published in Bent Pin, MO: Writings from the River, Sequoia Review, River Poets Journal and Naugatuck River Review, she shares her work in various poetry groups. In 2006 she was a finalist for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award and in 2006 and 2007 was awarded prizes from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund. KB has a B.A. and M.A. in Writing and a MFA in Creative Writing and Poetry. Readers can contact KB via her website: www.kbballentine.com.
The moon howls its rings
as it tracks the trees, stalks
bare branches of red
maples, chasing scarecrow
shadows across the yard.
Leaves crunch underfoot
as I trek to the lake. Brief barks
from the other side, then silence.
The overturned skiff trembles
like an exposed rabbit
on the shore, gray timber nuzzling
sand, water snapping wood.
Light scatters darkness,
keen for the hunt.
Dante Meets Katrina, 2005
“Death could scarce be bitterer.” Inferno, Canto I
Condensation beads the rim
of the dome, both top and bottom,
even the walls start to sweat –
mercury beginning to rise
here in the anteroom to hell.
Wind howls, solid steel separates,
tears like tissue: a metamorphosis
has occurred; no Virgil to guide
our exploration of this underworld
on earth. We tremble on the fringe,
unveiled wails rising from those souls
who sought refuge, thought the inner
circle would be safe.
And it’s still raining . . .
We pass plastic seats sticky
with yesterday’s soda,
today’s tissues; the stench
of diapers unchanged, body odor
saturates every particle of air;
men play checkers, insensible
to the chaos; a clothesline strung
across rows airs a musty, molding
blanket. Deeper we descend
where teenagers carve graffiti,
where artists scrawl torn trees,
open roofs, floating dogs.
And it’s still raining . . .
The center of this storm silent.
And cold. One woman rocks
herself while red seeps
from her puffy lip, torn dress
covers bruised knees; a child stares
ahead, mouth moving, voiceless;
an old man sits yoga-style beating
his head into the moist, thick air.
Others converge, a brawl
beginning to brew in the tangle
It’s still raining . . .