Review by Angela Dribben
Lucy Griffith opens We Make a Tiny Herd with La Reina, the lens with which I will always view the burro lady, a woman “full of thousands of sunsets, and brimming with stars.” It is in the last stanza of this poem that Griffith sets herself a task for the collection, “From you, I only ask respect: do not lay your story over mine.” Speaking for the burro lady in this poem, Judy Magers, this is quite clearly the bar Griffith holds for herself throughout the book. It is evident in her lyrics she feels charged to protect and uphold the memory of this regal and independent woman.
Powerful lines punctuate throughout bringing the landscape and the woman alive for the reader, “Your elephantine shape regal like some rajah moving across the desert,” “tulips pale against a dying thunderstorm,” and “anvil heads of summer storms slip.”
The intimate relationship between La Reina and her burro unfolds beautifully for the reader in poems with delicate lines like “she whispers a wild thing into her life.”
Valediction clearly marks Griffith’s decision to respect Mager’s privacy while still acknowledging a life before Far West Texas. It is a poem that pays homage to the woman as mother and her children, maintaining the sacred through rhythmic verse, “tributaries joining the river of respect pooled in this tiny desert town” and “the bluebonnets will be up soon nodding their azure heads in the bar ditch, looking for you.”
About midbook, Griffith artfully reminds us of how little we know in an aptly named poem, “What I don’t know.” The title line repeats quite often as if to remind us there is so much we never know about others and we must respect that. Even what we think we know is only that, a thought. She reminds us to be respectful of others by keeping their essence safe and intact, to always speak with kindness and reverence.
Griffith’s ancestral and personal history as a storyteller reveals itself consistently throughout We Make a Tiny Herd. While it is not ordered chronologically, there’s never any doubt as to its narrative arc. Unfettered by complicated language, the voice of Griffith, West Texas, and La Reina come through clear and cool to lay this story down so intentionally that I cannot remember ever not knowing the tiny herd.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 21, Issue 4.
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