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Scar and Flower by Lee Herrick
Word Poetry, 2019, 101 pp.
Reviewed by Sherry Smith


Carve out some quiet time, find a comfortable spot, and immerse yourself in Lee Herrick’s, Scar and Flower. The poet is a citizen of the world and, whether navigating external events or mining his internal landscape, he does so with unflinching courage and compassion and with language that is spare, evocative, lyrical and yet universally relatable.

Born in Daejeon, South Korea and adopted at ten months old, Herrick, who lives and teaches in Fresno, California, served as the city’s poet laureate from 2015 to 2017. Scar and Flower is his third book of poetry.

These poems are grounded in the body--so vulnerable to bullets and fire--and perhaps more importantly, by hearing.  


If you ever come back from the dead, I hear that

all the senses go:  no sight, no smell, no feel, no taste.

But you can hear . . .     

                                             (“What I Hear When I Begin to Lose My Vision”)


The poet finds this message worthy of telling more than once, and with good reason--


"Hearing is the last sense to leave us.

Some say upon death, our vision,

our taste, our touch, and our smell

might leave us, but some have been

pronounced dead and by all indication

are, but they can hear . . .

(“Anechoic”)


for these are poems that illuminate a search for truth, not facts, and hence require a deeper kind of listening:

I heard anger come into the night

I heard the night bring you down

I heard the down say please madam

I heard a woman say Hmong means free

I heard freedom like kingdom.

(“Testimony”)


Herrick’s language is always grounded, yet never constrained:

I know all the lyrics.  I know all the blood. 

I know why angels howl into the moonlight.

(“How Music Stays in the Body”)


While bearing witness to certain grim realities, the poet holds out the possibility of hope, balanced on the edges of the everyday and starshine:


In the stars, your country and silver shots of light. 

In the window, your best self, your supernova,

your midnight prayer against dying. 

(“Stars”)


Ultimately, Herrick shows the reader how to hear, and more so, how to listen, so as to keep moving forward. There is treasure here, if you listen deeply.

           I got lost in a forest I thought was an ocean.

My sister knew it was a lake and let me figure it out.

(“Sun”)


 

Sherry Smith is a life-time lover of words and poetry.  She is still trying to find the common denominator between an undergraduate degree in music, an early career in corporate distribution and logistics management, and her current profession as a clinical social worker.  Meanwhile, her interests include enjoying ways that poetry can explore and illuminate the human condition and our relationships to ourselves, others, and the world. She is an avid participant in poetry readings and events around the Chicago area.