The first thing you have to love about Sierra DeMulder’s poetry collection “We Slept Here” is the cover, which is kind of a Gray’s Anatomy throwback, at least for me. A long time ago I spent many hours in human anatomy dissection labs and I can barely look at this illustration without smelling the formaldehyde-soaked pages of my Gray’s Anatomy textbook, the one we constantly had open in lab to try to figure out exactly what it was we were seeing.
In this beautiful cover art the dissector has pulled back a layer of muscle and bone to reveal what’s underneath. It’s how these illustrations are done, because that’s how complicated and difficult it is to literally see, never mind understand, the many layers of human tissue. What’s more important is that’s how this book is done, this amazing collection of poetry by poet and spoken word artist Sierra DeMulder, a writer and performer you’d be wise to keep your eye on. The book itself is a gradual pulling back of layers, layers of shame and regret and pain in the experience of a lover abused. What is revealed, miraculously, is love and forgiveness underneath.
I’m pretty sure I can identify what I’m seeing in “When I Should Have Left You”–
When I accidentally coughed up
my tongue at the dinner table.
Out it fell like a piece of veal
on the mashed potatoes. I hardly
recognized it, I swallowed it so long ago
–or in this line, from “A Study of Forgiveness as a Process or a Sociopath”–
Anger lives so loud in the body.
–or even these from “Uninhabitable,” which allude to the book’s title–
Our nest of rubbish, our flowerless
garden–we slept here.
But I am frankly floored, disoriented, lost in grace when I see DeMulder dissect deep enough to get here:
You do not have to feel guilty for allowing others
to take care of themselves. But what
do I do with this leftover love?
–or here, in “And If I Am to Forgive Myself”–
Here is the foreclosure
of my shame and here is to our
brokenness. Look at us being so
I don’t know (thank God) the reality or the psychology of abuse but I do know about leftover love–too much love, sometimes–and I surely know about being damn human. And I have terrific respect for any writer unafraid to do battle with forgiveness.
I first met Sierra DeMulder at an event in spring of 2014 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). It was a combined project of the MIA and the Loft Literary Center, an exploration of the sacred in art and writing. What YOU need to do, and soon, is see Sierra DeMulder perform: try the videos below, or Google Sierra DeMulder YouTube or better yet, subscribe (like I do) to Button Poetry and receive a daily email link to poetry performed by DeMulder and a host of other talented young poets. The night of the Sacred at the MIA, I was mesmerized by DeMulder’s words, their clarity, their power and also with how she so brilliantly and bravely laid those words out there, right along with her heart. She is an unforgettable performer.
In her Acknowledgments and Resources pages, DeMulder offers direct and concrete support to readers who may not yet have the strength to dissect their abusive relationship. These two pages alone could be priceless to the right reader. The rest of the book is a steal for anyone. Order your “We Slept Here” now.