Reviewed by Angela Gregory-Dribben
Discovery is an astute mindful traverse across the observations of boyhood, a young man during the Vietnam era with a lottery number of 341, an 18-year career as a clinical neurophysiologist for high-risk surgical procedures, and the husband who lost his wife. We go with Krieger into the operating room, on his childhood streets, and adulthood, as he traces histories, follows marriages, crimes, burials, births, and lays them out for us, sometimes spanning generations in a single poem. His accounts so precise they feel eerily familiar to me as a reader. I am both drawn into his vision and realize I have witnessed what he accounts. Perhaps we all have.
Krieger, a poetic economist, can be relied upon to carefully exhibit the most important details and succinctly state the mattering of each poem. In “Somebody to Love,” we are immediately grounded in a climate and time with Jefferson Airplane, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Martin Luther King, and then the anchoring shifts to a consciousness and a climate that hasn’t changed at all with time, “I feared for Obama / and Hilary so bullish / sex like a target / on her chest.” In the midst of the momentum of events, the poet interjects a single lonely line, “I just sat there.”
In lines like this I hear Krieger name his privilege, his duty, and the way he tries to answer his responsibility to them both, particularly in his poetry.
In account after account of transparent observation, Krieger is not looking for absolution, accepting onus rather than finger pointing. One of the ways he achieves this is the use of the plural pronoun “sold our self-respect,” “we and our tormentors, bound as one / in fear, delirium, and dogma,” “We covet our portion of hatred.”
As I traversed Krieger’s pages, I become very curious about his choices. Why did he tell the story of “Mrs. Soffel’s Children,” the warden’s wife who helped the Biddle boys escape in 1902? Then, I happened upon the title poem, “I mainly think about/what no one knows, / nor I either, / how the brain works, / is God truly cruel, / why what I know as truth / you know as lie / why you hate me / and I you.”
These answers only made me need to know more. Never a rush to separate himself from the darkness, Krieger is in a relentless pursuit to find himself in others. In “Bob and Autumn,” the speaker’s wife has been ill and desired to be let go. Bob murdered his wife. The last stanza: “Bob got life without parole; / I’m in love again. / I know there’s a difference between us; / I haven’t found what that is.”
Is part of what I witness as a reader the listening that Krieger’s work has cultivated in him? He listens to the brain during surgery: “My part: to listen, understand, / say when the bruised, beaten / very small locus of life / can bear no more.” Again, in “Battle Fatigue”: “My part: to hear and report.”
When I read Discovery, I sense Krieger’s commitment to show us where our humanity has been bruised and beaten or has been the bruiser, and collectively we can “bear no more.”
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 2.