Jonathan K. Rice
Killing Time
Main Street Rag

Reviewer: Connie Post


          Jonathan K. Rice’s collection Killing Time is a poetic exploration of the myriad ways in which people experience time. The manuscript is divided into five sections. Each section starts with a relevant quote about “time,” my favorite being from the first section, a line by Charles Simic: “The secret wish of poetry is to stop time.” This collection achieves that goal and more.

          The first poem in the book is “Night Out,” which sets a tone of quiet contemplation.

He stops at the red light
on his way home on a Saturday night.
The woman he was with is on his mind
as well as the job he lost
and the money he doesn’t have.

          The poem continues to unfold, exploring the many thoughts one might have while sitting in the car, waiting for the light to turn.

          Many of the poems in this collection revolve around the theme of place and how our lives occur in specific locales. We are taken on journeys through the woods, to cafes, Key West, and even a therapy couch (“Therapy”).

The last place he ever wanted
to find himself was on this couch.
Yet he liked the texture of the fabric,
floral pattern, the firmness
of the cushions that kept him afloat.

          I appreciated the universality of this poem and how the poet finds comfort in the “small space between the sofa/ and the wall.” Although many of us never imagined we would be in therapy, we do find ourselves spending time in unexpected rooms.

          The poem “Blessing of a Broken Bottle” exemplifies how to find gratitude in the kaleidoscope of small moments.

Yet as I swept up the glass
in the dark and drizzle,
the aromas of rain and wine commingled
with the scent of autumn leaves
and pavement,
something distinct I’ll never forget,

a small blessing,
an awkward gift to myself.

          This book also pays important attention to the influence and vital importance of human relationships.  In the poem “Absence,” the poet states,

The ground is dry with brown confetti
and I try to understand
the dynamics of fire,
the pyrotechnics of your love.

Hurricane season is almost over.
Your tropics are remote.
I miss your turbulence,
the salty moistness of your flesh.

          This poem left me with feelings of longing and fulfillment—to know and understand how we are on fire and turbulent all at once, the ethereal nature of intimacy and loss.

          The poems in Killing Time explore both real and imagined relationships. In “As I Open the Door,” Rice writes,

a woman walks in
before I can walk out.

There is a man with a tripod
and a camera. He focuses the lens.

A light flashes as I exit.
I am a blurred figure

between worlds,
a device of contrast,

a ghost in the background.

          This poem exemplifies the complexity of how we view ourselves and others. It emphasizes how we travel between the worlds of our imagination and our reality. I was reminded of how we often can lose focus (of ourselves and our own lives), quickly and unconsciously merging with others.

          An admirable poetry collection should make us walk in different directions yet stay connected to its central theme.  I admire the way in which Jonathan Rice is able to nudge the reader out of her own reality and into another. In the poem “Our Possible Life,” Rice writes,

We drink wine at a café
that overlooks a bay where boats

sway softly on the water.
Olive trees scattered
on broad hills behind us
rustle in the breeze
as we embrace in a land
not our own.

          This poem, like many others in the collection, reminds me how moments can live within us and also become something larger than ourselves. It teaches us how we must both embrace lands that are not our own and remain anchored to our own vistas.

          The third section of the book, starting with a quote from Dr. Seuss—“How did it get so late so soon?highlights several shorter poems that are prayerful and meditative; for example, the poem “Rain”:

How I love to walk in the rain
while a crocodile cloud
eats the sun!

There you are
in the drizzle
reaching for my hand—

the morning in our palms.

          As the poet Shelley remarked, "Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar." Shelley’s quote defines Jonathan K. Rice’s work. Rice has found a way to lift the veil, prompting us to reflect on how we spend time, make time, kill time, and make meaning of time. Ironically, one of my favorite poems in the book is titled “Time” and serves as a perfect representation of this collection.

time threads itself
through our
wanderings

it comes loose
in those moments
before the dawn

rethreads as the day begins


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