Category Archives: CPR Volume 18, Issue 1

The Lost Child: Ozark Poems
by Wesley McNair

Reviewed by Luiza Lodder

The Lost Child-McNair
The Lost Child: Ozark Poems
Wesley McNair
(2014 Godine Press)
$18 Paper

The human reluctance to confront unpleasant truths constitutes the principal conflict of Wesley McNair’s poetic sequence The Lost Child. To honor his elderly and ailing mother, Ruth, and her Ozark origins, McNair crafts a constellation of stories and characters who silently avoid difficult emotions and problems. This conflict permeates McNair’s presentation of the fictional Sykes family, his imagery, and his approach to language.

McNair evokes the Sykes’ inability to express their emotions through stark visual cues, suggesting an unexamined acceptance of infirmity, domestic violence, and poverty. In “When She Wouldn’t” for example, the gravity of Ruth McNair’s secret foot pain unfolds through a depiction of her trying “to wash/ the black from her big toe [yet] could not/ because it was gangrene.” Similarly in “Graceland”, McNair treats the swinging arms of Aunt Mae’s abusive husband as part of the scenery, no more alarming than the “arms of the fan above…swinging.” Finally, in “Going Home”, McNair alludes to the abject poverty that plagues the Ozarks. He offers a Dust Bowl-era memory of Ruth as a girl “with her family in the truck…/…chairs tied to the roof and a dust/ storm swirling around them.” By casually and infrequently referring to this poverty and by downplaying the seriousness of disease and violence, McNair draws attention to the foundational (yet unacknowledged) hardships suffered by the Sykes family.

McNair’s language discloses his compassion towards the Sykeses and his filial devotion to Ruth while simultaneously trawling for uncomfortable images and realities. In the titular poem for example, his elongated sentences and rambling dependent clauses delay the poem’s essential revelation. At the poem’s close, his mother says, “I am/ the lost child, Mama,” in response to a query about the fate of a family member’s unplanned baby. Ironically, to her family, Ruth’s moment of lucidity sounds like senile babbling, but McNair understands its significance: his mother has verbalized a fundamental truth about herself and found words to express the sense of displacement and vulnerability that has hounded her all her life. This approach substantiates McNair’s talent for balancing compassion and bluntness without resorting to sentimentality. Instead of relying on the nostalgic filters that tend to characterize homages to loved ones, McNair empowers his mother and her beleaguered family through the words they could not say and the emotions they could not express. Thus The Lost Child strives not only to celebrate Ruth and her fictionalized family, but to understand them.

Steeped in this desire to understand unfamiliar points of view, McNair’s empathy for the Sykeses radiates throughout the collection. He weaves in and out of different minds to reveal individual anguishes with piercing clarity, dignifying his mother’s family and humanizing the inhabitants of this forgotten American backcountry home. In The Lost Child, McNair marries honesty with tenderness, voicing the sorrows of those too weary to speak in a poignant testament to the healing that results from communicating one’s truths.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.

Luiza LodderLuiza Lodder is an international student studying English at the Pennsylvania State University. Eventually she intends to go to graduate school or apply to an MFA program in the United States. She writes music reviews for No Ripcord and recently began writing book reviews.

See all items about Luiza Lodder

Visit Luiza Lodder’s contributors page.

Knowledge (v.)
by Danielle Mitchell

This is madness she says & we should go camping in it. He traces the outline of her bra strap as if it were a map. Let’s go anywhere lonely & suffering & green, which is a simple coordinate for her & he knows it. He knows she’s never loved anything this red before. Not the red inside always mistaking itself for white, but a harvest she circles her teeth around. There is no white or wrong. Not in this nonsense. He is just a jungle cat slinking through the curtains saying How about we take out a mortgage & sleep in the same room for the rest of our lives. To which she’s only a ball of yarn that moans January January January.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.

Danielle MitchellDanielle Mitchell is winner of the 2015 Editor’s Prize from Mary and a recipient of the Editor’s Choice Award from The Mas Tequila Review. Danielle lives in Long Beach, California where she is director of The Poetry Lab. Catch up with her at

See all items about Danielle Mitchell

Visit Danielle Mitchell’s contributors page.

First Kill
by Janet Hagelgans

When he shows you the picture he took in Baghdad
after his father baked his famous crab cakes,
after the Seahawks started killing the Rams,
after you went out back to make a phone call
and found him just standing there holding a cigarette,
after his mother had told you how she’d taken him
down to Tahoe since he’d been big enough to fly,
her son, who needs two beers to fall asleep
and leaves the TV on static all night,
when he shows you the photo
he’s had in his phone since before he had Junior
he doesn’t blink, he looks at you and you look at him
and the two of you are a couple of people
standing together in the wet grass on a starless night
off a dirt road in Skagit County, Washington,
twentysomething miles southwest of Mount Baker
and fourteen miles east of the bay and past that
the ocean, but the whole family’s still inside
so you hand him his phone and go back to the house,
except you don’t, neither of you do, not really.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.

Janet HagelgansJanet Hagelgans holds a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland. Her poetry has appeared in the Potomac Review, Atticus Review, Common Ground Review, and Thrush Poetry Journal.

See all items about Janet Hagelgans

Visit Janet Hagelgans’s contributors page.