David Hanlon reviews C. Cimmone's debut poetry chapbook, "Torn Up."
C. Cimmone’s collection Torn Up is a powerful meditation on addiction, death, sex and mental illness. This is a confessional work in which Cimmone has laid bare her suffering alongside her deepest and darkest demons. Cimmone is a poet of the highest order: a voice that is both idiosyncratic and boldly compelling. The poetry here is razor-sharp and concise, deeply wedded to the everyday: to the incidental and transitory nature of existence. Every poem is its own universe of emotional depth and complexity. In this review, I have chosen to focus solely on the poem ‘8.05’ and its expression of grief, from this extraordinary collection.
“8.05” begins with Cimmone eating a painkiller for breakfast, jolting us to the way the pain of grief manifests not only emotionally but also physically, behaviourally. There is no desire to eat; grief is so all-consuming that all there is inside her is the overwhelming need to relieve the pain. The poem is structured by documenting specific times of the day. This precise formation stands in opposition to and emphasises the messiness of the grief Cimmone is experiencing, the world turned upside-down nature of her grief: eating pills for breakfast, forgetfulness through the all-consuming preoccupation with grief: the bacon burning, the door not locked, and the pining for the other and grasping anything that comes close to them but never is them: “smoked the rest of your weed”, “gobbled up your leftovers.”
They say time is a healer, but Cimmone shows how time brings no mercy, inexplicably it both slows to an aching crawl and races by without her noticing: the loss of hours evoking the loss of him. Time oscillates between intense and pain-staking stillness to lightning-fast speed. In grief, time is the great tormenter who attacks the grieved in a myriad of conflicting and unpredictable ways. By 3.45pm, Cimmone has used up all her Xanax. Each day, each hour is painful to get through and these precise times emphasise how time makes us its prisoner in grief. It is almost as if the clock stops at these specific times when Cimmone is jolted back to the present moment: the smell of the bacon burning, the panic of running out of anti-anxiety medication.
These moments are short-lived, and on this day, there are only five of them that Cimmone experiences. The rest of her day does not register on life’s ticking clock. During these spaces, she is stuck in the fog of her turmoil. It is this paradox that causes the grieved to feel intensely isolated, like they are living in some warped time zone — stuck in their unending grief as the world goes by without them. They feel like life is at a standstill and do not realise the minutes and hours have been passing by until something from the real world, like the bacon burning, thrusts them back into the present for a moment.
The time gap between these five documented timings gets larger as the day goes on: hours are lost. As the reader, we feel the stretch of these blank spaces in which life is passing by and Cimmone is lost in the swell of her own grief. The passing of time makes a person feel further away from the one they have lost whilst also reminding them of the ongoing nature of the suffering they are experiencing. This is incredibly anxiety-provoking and Cimmone has already self-medicated, with the darkness of evening still to come.
By 10.57pm, Cimmone has forgotten to lock the door and is laying on the bed hoping an armed stranger will burst in and save her from “thinking anymore about you being gone.” Cimmone shows how her grief is more dangerous than an unlocked door or an armed stranger entering her home. This scenario - being something that would instill great fear in a person - is in fact perceived as a rescue from this hellish existence. We are propelled to imagine that a stranger shooting Cimmone is less painful than the grief she is going through, that it is the only escape from this terrible, all-encompassing nightmare.
This poem, like all the others in Torn Up, is powerful and deeply emotional. Cimmone envelopes us in her grief and the overwhelming intensity is almost palpable. The number of interpretations one can glean from Cimmone’s poetry is a testament to how layered and rich with depth and meaning this collection is.
C. Cimmone is a Texan author and editor, and founder and editor-in-chief of Versification. She has been creating dark literature since she was a child, asking her kindergarten teacher to scribe ‘I wish Sandy was here’ onto a purple construction-paper cloud, following the death of her puppy, Sandy. She credits her literary abilities to her father’s record player, which spun 1960’s lyrics every night after dinner. Cimmone enjoys dark comedy clubs, telling stories over chicken tikka masala, and New York City. She considers herself a recluse, is horribly afraid of flying, and hates to cook. Follow her on Twitter at @diefunnier.
David Hanlon is a Welsh poet living in Cardiff. He is a Best of the Net nominee. You can find his work online in over 50 magazines, including Rust & Moth, Feral Journal, The Daily Drunk Mag & Amethyst Review. His first chapbook, Spectrum of Flight is available for purchase now at Animal Heart Press. You can follow him on Twitter: @davidhanlon13 and on Instagram: @welshpoetd.