May 2023

Break Towards Me:
Bone Wishing by Tara Flint Taylor

Gregory Luce | Scene4 Magazine

Gregory Luce



Images of breakage and loss, of illness and death, but also endurance, resilience and tentative hope—fill this powerful collection of poems. "I thought that life would always be forked/bone, splintering—just before it snapped.//I thought it would always break more/towards me than away." ("Bone Wishing")

As a teenager, the poet on her way to a Springsteen show encounters a boy who "stole stones from Springsteen's/driveway, called them "Springsteen Rocks'" before being arrested for smoking opium. Years later he has taken up music himself: "I heard him on the radio—/not Springsteen—the boy…/He wasn't good but he was/something." By contrast, the poet "got a job cleaning houses…./For two and a half hours each week/I cleaned one bathroom. To the mirror/alone, I could lose my life." ("Rise")

Food imagery abounds, usually as a means of dealing with the stresses of illness. "Nothing is only what it is—/the Vidalia onion sliced to bloom…/looks like my little sister's/tulle ballet tutu discarded in a bunch/on the hardwood floor.//A salmon sashimi rose…/is like the soft floret of cancer,/opening on the vine/of her throat." The poet tries to comfort her sister, again using a food analogy: "…I tell my sister/not to worry about/her CT scan next week…./Think of the machine as a giant/lifesaver—that's what it/looks like, peppermint flavor./You'll wait inside/this ring shaped lifebuoy—/eyes closed, teeth clenched,/you'll think of something else." (Something Else")

In the boo',s most powerful poem, "Borscht," the color red and the food it adorns stands in for blood, for a certain kind of loss. "Red in the toilet bowl red on the white sheets/red roses my least favorite in white vases/in my painted white room. Red beets red cabbage/red meat in borscht poured in the cracked white bowl/I eat every sour meal in for weeks." The source of all this red is revealed shockingly in the next stanza: "I was forty when I had an abortion." The fact that the prospective child was not planned for or desired does not mitigate the sadness nor her bewilderment at not wanting what so many women crave, "this unwanted gift on the doorstep of my stomach/I didn't know how to refuse.//So many women believe that to be a woman is to suffer./Who am I to tell them they're wrong." Even the poet's attempt at humor cuts deep. "My husband asks what's this an empty pot/on the stove tinged pink. It's my abortion borscht I tell him./And I laugh. Not because it's funny."

Not all is dark in this collection. The poet finds hard-won beauty in such things as "Sea Glass." "My mother loved the cool cobalt blue, well -worn/smooth shards like Chinese porcelain, coveted/for their polished, smoky tone.//After the ocean took Kris, we gathered/handfuls to take home—Heineken and whisky jug/specks frothy from low tide, shiny from the shoreline.//My mother never wanted flowers—fresh/reminders of what can die. She wanted a jarred rainbow/on the shelf, hard colors to fill our lives."

The poet also remembers wryly the flawed but nonetheless real beauty of "Syracuse China." "Because the company guaranteed the glaze would not fracture,/craze, or crack,/we spent our days playing among mountains of spectacular failure." In a museum, she and her mother look at "the display of donated plates and bowls./Mounted on the wall/were the faultless versions of all the dishes I set and cleared//washed, dried, put away." The broken bits of ceramic even provide a means to make art: "One day a friend figured out that a shard could be used as chalk./It was a miracle,/we thought, loading our pockets with their mistakes, to draw//on our own sidewalks and driveways. Even the cracked/foundations/of our homes were decorated with flowers, animals, suns."

In addition to being a marvelous collection of poems, the book itself is a remarkable piece of art, beautifully designed and illustrated with images by the poet's husband, Joshua Flint, himself a brilliant artist.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tara recently at the AWP conference in Seattle. We had several very enjoyable conversations and I acquired her book. I literally couldn't put it down. I started reading it that night, continued on the long plane ride home, and finished back in the comfort of my home. I have now read it several times and my admiration only grows with each reading.

I am further delighted to turn this over to Tara for her own thoughts about the book and her work.


Thank you for taking the time to talk about your work.
How did you get started writing poetry? Was there one defining moment or did it come gradually?

I loved reading from the beginning. My mother is what you'd call an avid reader and she raised my siblings and I to be lifelong dedicated readers as well. When I was a kid I read everything, including books of poems. 

There were big incentives in the 80's and 90's for reading. Pizza. Buttons. Prizes. 

"Book-It" was a whole thing partnered with Pizza Hut. You read books and you got free pizza. You got a button. 

Also, in addition to the library there was the book mobile that would roll up and it was the best day ever. It was like a food truck but with books you could eat up and didn't have to pay for. A library on wheels.  I loved books more than anything and yet when I was around 10 I wrote a poem about playing my saxophone probably because I thought that would make a much cooler poem. The saxophone poem made me a legend in my family. I am 45 years old and my brothers still, after years of asking them not to, call me "Toots."

The first poem I wrote had that strong of an impact of "my readers." It gave me a nickname like "Toots" for life! That's how powerful poetry is. How lasting. Seriously though, I fell in love with the language of poetry at a very young age and have been in love ever since.

What poets or other writers have influenced and/or sustained  you in your writing?

I like how you use the word "sustained." I am influenced by many poets and writers but it is the poem that sustains me. I am drawn to specific, individual poems more so than a poet's oeuvre. It is a poem like Sandra Upham's "Rape" that will stay with you for the rest of your life. A poem like Fleur Adcock's "Weathering." 

May I just go ahead and give praise to the poem? "Heavy Rain" by Jane Kenyon, "I Stare at a Cormorant" by Tiana Clark, "OBIT (Grief)" by Victoria Chang, "Elegy" by Aracelis Girmay, "A Nap" by Toi Derricotte, "The Night After You Lose Your Job" by Debra Kuan, "The Writing" by Jane Wong, "Meanwhile" by Richard Siken, "Meditations in an Emergency" by Cameron Awkward-Rich, "Shoulders" by Naomi Shihab Nye, "To the Young Who Want To Die" by Gwendolyn Brooks, "Spring Comes To a Gray Country" by Dorianne Laux, "Ode to Friendship" by Noor Hindi, "What It Look Like" by Terrance Hayes, "There Are Days" by Kate Baer, "Things" by Lisel Mueller, "Letter" by Natasha Tretheway. 

There are certain writers whose work is very important to me but whose influence doesn't really show up in my own poems in any way you can see or feel. I can list writers like favorite flowers or birds- Mary Ruefle, Nick Flynn, Lauryn Hill, Marie Howe, MF Doom, Jake Skeets, Alex Dimitrov, The Last Emperor, Megan Thee Stallion, Lucille Clifton, Coast Contra, Jane Hirshfield, Naomi Shihab Nye, Anne Michaels, Patrick Lawler, W.S. Merwin, Joy Harjo as well as writer friends I know who are not published widely or at all and who write texts and email that are so full of brilliance I am in awe of every word.

Your husband Joshua Flint is a fine visual artist who provided illustrations for your book. Have you collaborated before? How does his work affect yours and vice versa?

We have an astonishing effect on one another's work. We tend to get a little stoned in early evening, after an early dinner and with cups of tea and talk and talk and talk. We talk very openly and creatively. We are each other's first reader, editor, and critic. We are radically honest with one another. Joshua's first book, Memory Forest, is a 234-page retrospective art book spanning a decade from 2012-2022. A big, beautiful book with splashy pages of paintings and quiet studies, interview, and essay. I copyedited his book and he did the cover artwork and interior image for mine. We are forever connected to each other's ISBN. We often dream about making a book together, a visual poetic narrative, something like Who Owns The Clouds by Mario Brassard and Gerard Dubois. Imagine delicate and moody gouache paintings telling a story, the words alongside the images are sparse and physical, powerful and poised—this is our dream collaboration project. I really love the painter-poet relationship we have. 
I title a lot of his paintings and he teaches me about tone and composition, about patience and how something is always in relation to everything else. 

The book is not only a remarkable collection of poems, but also a beautifully designed artifact. Did you work with Slapering Hol and/or a designer to create it?

I met you at the AWP conference this year in Seattle and it was there that I realized just how remarkable a chapbook from Slapering Hol is by the many people who just wanted to touch them, hold them in their hands and admire the craftsmanship. They truly are beautiful. People would actually gasp as they asked "are these handmade?" It is just a very rare thing these days. They are not glossy mass- produced books but more of an artisanal artifact as you said.  I worked alongside the editors at Slapering Hol and their designer, Ed Rayher from Swamp Press, and we discussed color palette, font, and how the artwork should complement the tone of the poems and I feel proud of what we made. 

And finally, what's next?  

I think the more time you spend with a poem or a painting the more you understand about yourself. And when you live side by side with a piece of art it also knows you better than anyone. I just want to keep having this type of relationship—with myself, with the work. It's all I have ever wanted and as I get older I understand how easy it is for what's important to slip away if you don't pay attention.  

To order Bone Wishing, go here:

To learn more about Tara Flint Taylor, visit her website:

To see more of Joshua Flint's art:


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Gregory Luce is a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
He is the author of five books of poetry, has published widely in print and online and is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Retired from National Geographic, he is a volunteer writing tutor/mentor for 826DC, and lives in Arlington, VA.
More at: https://dctexpoet.wordpress.com/
For his other columns and articles in Scene4
check the Archives.

©2022 Gregory Luce
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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