Night Court with the fears

James Baldwin once said “The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see.” Does Erica Goss love you?



E rica Goss in her poem collection “Night Court” takes on many different subjects that definitely are close to our heart and mind in everyday life. The variety of issues discussed in Goss’ poems, for I believe poetry not only inspire the reader but opens a dialogue with him, is so extensive it takes some time to collect your thoughts. However, there is an order as the collection is divided into five parts and each focus on a “different” theme.

Erica Goss

The first one is more general, focused on thoughts that trouble one’s mind in the night when one cannot shut one’s mind and calmly fall asleep. The cover poem “Night Court” reflects the best this part of the collection, as it does with the whole volume. The second one, the way I see it, takes on childhood experiences, relationships with parents and family. The third section of the volume brings to your attention the subject of marriage and parenthood. Fourth, the one I like the least, seems to take on food matters and senses. Finally, the last section of the collection takes on, as I understand it, a passage from the past to the future. The best example is the opening poem of this part, “Love Poem With Broken Things” where you can see the transformation of the attitude to a partner in a relationship, though I think this poem could also be understood more symbolically. However, Erica Goss does not give the reader much space and freedom of interpretation and adding symbolic meaning to her poems as she takes on specific topics and with simple, but at the same time exact style and language, takes you on the trip in her thoughts. Therefore, I have quite ambivalent feelings on this, as, on the one hand, I do appreciate the invitation into her mind and heart, yet there were moments I was yearning for my freedom. Still, the variety of matters, Erica Goss takes on, give the reader the opportunity to either identify his own feelings in some of the poems or to discover and dwell for a while with other ones on the themes that haven’t occupied his mind.

The way I see it, the volume with the opening of night-wild-unstoppable-thoughts, especially in “Night Court” becomes a trial with one’s fears, past tragedies, unsolved matters and incomprehensible thoughts. As Erica Goss puts it in the cover poem:

After midnight
when the rates are cheapest
I put my tragedies on the witness stand.

so further, closing the poem she says:

This, my examination,
my handbook on how to live.

I believe the last verse of “Night Court” gives us a key question that Goss asks and at the same time tries to answer – How to live?

If you are asking yourself a question whether you should reach for this collection or not, let me give you an example of Goss poetry with one of my favorite poems from the volume – “Remember Three Words.”

Apple, penny, table. I’ve lost
the right lens from my glasses.
Draw a house. We lived across
the street from the library.
I got my library card when
I was five. What time is it?
I could check out as many
books as I wanted. And
God knows I wanted. More
than I could carry.
What month is it? I crossed
the street, holding hands
with my sister. Came home
after two years at Holy Names.
Got married at nineteen.
Count aloud backwards
from 20 to 1. Two teenagers
and a baby in diapers. Jim
Beam was my best friend.
Burned all of my diaries.
Say the months of the year
in reverse order. A twelve-
year-old boy killed my brother.
He was nineteen. My mother
told the killer’s mother: we both
lost a son today. How is
your mood today? Of course
my sister is already out
of the hospital. She always
has to be first. Draw a clock
at 11:05. In other words,
the people in here have
no class. No, I don’t want
any water. In other words,
you don’t have to shout.
Do you remember the
three words? Better, worse,
the same.

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