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The Elders Warned Us About Alcohol
~ Dr. Dawn Karima
A Review of BECOMING by Laura LeHew
Alcohol. A demon. A scourge. In many Native
families, alcohol forms the foundation of family
stories. Amidst the aches of domestic violence
and the pains of problem childhoods, another
aspect of alcohol abuse arises.
Alcoholism and Dementia form the focus of Laura LeHew's poetry collection called BECOMING. For addicts and alcoholics who survive car wrecks, jail, and other disasters, the impact of alcohol on aging can prove to be poignant. Poetry permits the author to address issues that every family endures such as weddings, funerals, family time, illness and mundane life. Many families of varied ethnicities may identify with the incidents of daily interactions that LeHew uses poetry to describe.
For families imprinted with Intergenerational Trauma, alcoholism and addiction, this poet has crafted a careful insight into alcoholics and dementia. "When my daughter calls,"writes the author,"will I lie when I don't even know what to say." She continues the poem "Mother's Day" by saying," the past is the answer not worth pursuing." Mother's Day is a holiday noted by most Americans, yet LeHew pushes past the colorful cards and commercial traditions into the tangled torments of dysfunctional and addicted families.
LeHew explores "foregoing redemption for the sake of appearances" in her poem, "With a Scythe and an Hourglass." The roots of family dysfunction and secrets result in an elderly relative being denied a priest and confession. A stepmother cannot bear to let her dying husband confess his sins against his daughters. As a result, he sends the priest away, leaving the wounds of his wrongs to fester,rather than make amends or take responsibility for his tragic error. This poem resonates with survivors of abuse, regardless of their backgrounds.
Grief, traumatic grief and loss provide an undercurrent throughout this book. "Like fingerprints and DANA, and the darkness within only you disappear," states LeHew. "All of My Alternative Routes Have Been Alternative Routes" explains that "Grief deteriorates to grappling polymers twist, entwine" as a "double helix measures the question." Readers may know well the significance of DNA and are often acquainted with the emotional toll of sorrow. LeHew summarizes the experience of agony by warning, "When you are asleep, listen to this; beyond the horizons are other horizons."
Family stories,found poems, and figuring out how to navigate the waters of alcohol and dementia fill the 62 pages of this volume. LeHew shows the shocking side of addiction and its aftermath. Her words are evocative and tragic, yet conveyed with skillful authenticity. This wordsmith weaves intriguing portraits of men and women affected by alcohol. Her talent and transparency make this a book that will encourage readers of all ethnicities to process their own pain in order to heal.
BECOMING by Laura LeHew. 2016, Another New Calligraphy, www.anothernewcalligraphy.com