July 2015

Raylyn Clacher

poetry

Our End Has Brought the Spring by Cat Dixon

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In Our End Has Brought the Spring, Cat Dixon boldly tackles the life of Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's mistress and eventual wife. Through poetry, she brings to life a woman who remains enigmatic, someone who, on a good day, is mentioned as a footnote in our history books. Opening the collection feels like diving into the taboo. Who is this woman who loved, shared company with, even slept with Hitler? Is she a na´ve young woman or a calculated power-grabber? The answer, Dixon seems to posit, is somewhere in between. The Eva Braun of Our End Has Brought the Spring is part ambition, part lost lover, part swept-under-the-rug, part determined and single-minded, powerful woman.   

What Dixon does so deftly in this collection is give Braun breath and voice without sensationalizing her. While this collection could easily be a vitriolic, raging didactic against evil and complacency, Dixon meets Braun where she is at: a young woman in Germany in love with a man in power. Most importantly, though, although the collection hinges on Braun's relationship with Hitler, Dixon uses this relationship as lens rather than focus. Through this relationship, Dixon gives us a glimpse of what Braun might have been like, what she might have thought. This collection is no surreptitious shower-curtain glimpse at Hilter's intimate affairs; rather, it's an opportunity for Braun to inhabit the full spotlight, for us to know the woman who has been silent so many years.

Dixon brings a physicality to Braun, particularly in one of my favorite poems in the collection, "The Ice," in which Dixon imagines Braun ice skating:

I cut figure 8s
into the frozen lake.
Over and over I etch eternity
to guarantee, when this melts

in the spring, the water
will remember me.

In six lines, Dixon masterfully presents Braun as a physical presence with ambition. She uses tightly crafted, embedded rhymes to mirror the looping motion of someone making figure 8s on the ice. The woman carves a deliberate pattern in the ice, showing Braun as determined. Maybe Braun is a little na´ve in her endeavor, but her hunger to achieve immortality is palpable. This sort of attention to detail and craftsmanship is a hallmark of Dixon's collection.

In "Patience," Dixon strikes again, marrying image and rhythm to bring Braun to life:

my heart is a nervous flightless bird
that flaps her wings, steps up to sing
but cannot make sound for her beak
is filled with worms and dirt -- gifts
she intended to give to you. my mind
is a wilted rose painted red again
by the promise of your return.

You can feel the tension in this poem, the flutter of nerves exacerbated by a long wait for a lover, the excitement at distance yet excruciating silence during the interim. "A wilted rose painted red again" both trips and pleases the tongue: it's the perfect sonic image of someone skipping along, excited, yet hindered and restrained.

Ultimately, while Our End Has Brought the Spring doesn't answer every question we might have about Eva Braun, it doesn't need to. After all, the true power of poetry lies in its ability to climb under, to give shape and form to the unspoken. In this collection, Dixon does exactly that. She takes the idea of a woman and gives her flesh and returns her power to her. In some ways, it feels as if Braun has been waiting all of these years for Dixon to come along, systematically etching figure 8s somewhere, watching for the attentive eye of a poet like Dixon to notice her so she could whisper her secrets and speak again.

Our End Has Brought the Spring by Cat Dixon
Finishing Line Press