Whose House, Whose Playroom is a chapbook to savor. Each poem invites you into rooms with cloved oranges, mirrors, and “cupsful of evening” through voices that compel you to think about what it means to really look—inward at the self, and outward at the world as it moves through time. Virginia Smith Rice’s poems sing with wonderfully compelling, compassionate, and lyrical tonalities that pull you into the “raven-flamed hours” of memory. Whose House, Whose Playroom presents an aesthetic of liminal spaces—of being, of memory, of the relationships between mother and child—all the while in rich dialogue with the poems of Plath, Bishop, Levis, and Vallejo. This chapbook is filled with light in its exploration of darkness, and grace moves through these lines. As the speaker says in “Imagine Us Then, Unseeing Them,”
And yes, we all have
our sadnesses, not all of them so innocent,
but this hidden (forgotten) one is pure
loss, filling childhood with unnamed ache.
This (alone) cannot save us.
- Tyler Mills
Virginia Smith Rice is the author of When I Wake It Will Be Forever (Sundress Publications, 2014.) Her poems appear in The Antioch Review, Baltimore Review, Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, and Southern Poetry Review, among other journals. She is poetry editor at Kettle Blue Review and Canopic Publishing.
PLAYING WITH DOLLS
Cusp clasp curious unsure:
something animal caught in walls,
just under skin. Do you remember
Rose? A lime-washed, white pine floor,
five hours of blue light over snow…
and again, Rose: show me where
our feet wore a groove past the font
tucked, heavy-lidded, in the alcove,
up stone stairs twisting round and
round old organ pipes, a closeted space
where we laid out all our selves: spin
spin dust into air, like sea-rinsed
glass along arms and legs, trying each
infinite I on for size.