The Möbius Strip Club of Grief

Bian­ca Stone
  • Review
By – April 25, 2018

Bian­ca Stone’s The Möbius Strip Club of Grief owes its title to the name of a poem by her late grand­moth­er, the cel­e­brat­ed poet Ruth Stone. That poem includes the lines, I am not a mur­der­er, even in the bril­liance / of sleep where poems are three-dimen­sion­al.” Bian­ca Stone’s visions of her grand­moth­er, moth­er, and sib­lings speak pro­found­ly of mor­tal­i­ty and iden­ti­ty; they are as three-dimen­sion­al as poems on this side of sleep can be.

The möbius strip club of grief is explored in poems in the book’s first sec­tion. Here, sex and death com­min­gle. Stone’s poems con­tain strik­ing­ly orig­i­nal images. The dis­co ball in the cen­ter of the room / is like a flam­boy­ant, pock­marked moon,” she writes in the poem Hon­ey­bee.” As befits this par­tic­u­lar and pecu­liar set­ting, dis­cus­sion of mon­ey accom­pa­nies grief — as it does often in life but rarely in poet­ry. The poem Last Words” ends with the sur­pris­ing­ly haunt­ing lines, Who will pay? / Who will pay? Who will pay?” Stone dis­plays black humor and a novelist’s knack for scene-set­ting. In Hon­ey­bee,” she writes, Off-hours, the dead wait at the cen­ter of the room, sit­ting back­ward in chairs…”

The book’s sec­ond sec­tion steps away from the möbius strip club of grief. The poems in this sec­tion are more con­fes­sion­al, their tone more con­ver­sa­tion­al. Through­out, how­ev­er, Stone is dire and play­ful at once, as in the per­fect­ly imper­fect poem Blue Jays,” which insists There’s so much joy in this poem,” even as it cen­ters on a grief passed down through gen­er­a­tions. This poem con­tains a vari­ety of tones, voic­es, modes, and moods:

Blue, here is a shell for you—

Text mes­sages like leaves on a river

mov­ing swift­ly swift­ly toward

the vast sea of misunderstanding.

Oth­er out­stand­ing poems in this sec­tion are Dear Sis­ter;” Cliff Ele­gy;” the short, love­ly The Gang Ele­gy;” The Woman Down­stairs;” and The Walk­ing Dead,” with its open­ing line, She doesn’t know she’s dead, so you don’t bring it up.”

The theme of the möbius strip club of grief returns in the final poems of the book. It’s pos­si­ble that this fram­ing device is not expan­sive enough for the book’s superbly wide-rang­ing poems about fam­i­ly, famil­ial love, mind and being, belief, after­life, and body. The last poem briefly men­tions both Hillary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump, which, after being immersed in Stone’s world and words, feels like an unpleas­ant return to every­one else’s con­cerns and lan­guage. After all, most peo­ple have some­thing to say about Clin­ton and Trump. Only Bian­ca Stone would say, as she does in the poem The Fats,” I cracked open my skull and out flew Mom.”

Lucy Bie­der­man is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of cre­ative writ­ing at Hei­del­berg Uni­ver­si­ty in Tif­fin, Ohio. Her first book, The Wal­mart Book of the Dead, won the 2017 Vine Leaves Press Vignette Award.

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