An Engagement with Jessica Bixel

by Daniel Fernandez Malagón

Jessica Bixel writes, “I knew this place less / because I made it empty and waiting for disaster” in the last two stanzas of “A Theory of Windows,” published alongside “Broken Eclogue” in the latest issue of the online journal Sink Review. In the poems, Bixel explores the difficulty of coming to terms with the claustrophobic emotions of grief and despair through her use of fragmentation and repetition. However, her speaker’s form of address and her self-comparison to a “field of loss” reveals that she does not simply analyze the hardships of emotional imbalance, nor does she expect a physical or immediate resolution to her despair. Rather, she chooses to internalize these emotions in an attempt to escape from them. These poems, then, form an introspective narrative in search of the inner acceptance of reality amidst the fog that is grief.

In “Broken Eclogue,” the twisted title along with the repetition of words, “When dear ghost, / dear ghost, dear ghost,” and the fragmented references to the idea of how “fig trees becomes the nectary becomes the flood-wrack of spring,” create a sense of urgency, claustrophobia, and destruction while simultaneously emanating a feeling of despair. While the poem, with its form of address referencing a ghost, seems to be speaking to some now lost loved one, Bixel conspicuously creates a shift that reveals that the majority of the poem is in fact self-directed. There are scattered lines in the poem, such as “when I made / my first apology to the river / and a voice was struggling” in where Bixel shifts the speaker’s address in regards to herself from the first person to the third, making it evident that the poem’s theme reflects an inner struggle. Furthermore, observations on how animals are “flickering…between one realm to the next” as well as references to struggles and the acceptance of this “handmade world” culminate to the reveal what the last line, “Dear ghost, not yet” confirms. The speaker is searching for an inner resolution amidst her emotions, but is having difficulty coming to terms with reality.

In contrast, “A Theory of Windows” opens with a tone of acceptance as the speaker admits to the reality that there is “space enough in the world for one small body,” referencing that we each only have one body which we inhabit throughout our life. Similar to Eduardo Corral’s (author of Slow Lighting) practice of speaking to and about inanimate objects, Bixel’s speaker begins by addressing a “field of loss” which, in contrast, seems to reference the speaker’s body and self, that has been put through “much waste.” However, the next line, “still I could die anywhere,” reveals that this time, as opposed to the state of mind dealt with in “Eclogue,” some sort of inner resolution has been reached. This sense of acceptance perhaps comes with the realization that the speaker now acknowledges her source of grief to be in fact self-inflicted as she admits that she “ knew this place less // because I made it empty and waiting for disaster.” She goes on to accept that she “has no other fight,” further realizing that the cause of misery has always been due to internal struggles. Finally, the resolution of this reasoning comes to a close in the last line when the speaker admits that in order to move on and to rid oneself of grief one must “crack” open the field of loss and desolation and renew oneself again.

Read in the order published, Jessica Bixel’s “A Theory of Windows” and “Broken Eclogue” at first give an impression of dealing with grief caused by external circumstances. However, by reading them in reverse order, we can see that these poems are in fact dealing with grief definitely preserved by the inability to internally accept certain situations or scenarios and move on with reality. Using repetition, fragmentation, and form of address, Bixel sets an objective correlative of despair and urgency. In turn, Bixel’s reflections culminate to reveal a simple piece of advice to alleviate these: Recovery can only occur if the individual allows it to do so. The last line of “A Theory of Windows” closes out the entire narrative by offering a more forceful depiction of this idea: “To get light in the body you love you must crack it open.”

Daniel Fernandez Malagón is a first year student at Boston University from Mexico City, México. Although pursuing an undergraduate degree in International Management, he plans to pursue poetry throughout his life.