One of the most fascinating things about writing, to me, is connecting an experience and emotion with a reader. It’s thrilling, really. But what about when it comes to connecting those experiences and emotions that readers have not had, and in fact actively try not to think about because it’s just unthinkable? That kind of connection could be described as a labor of love.
How to Make Pancakes for a Dead Boy takes us through the unimaginable, the death, the suicide, of an eleven-year-old boy, who in this case was the author’s nephew, Frankie. We are dropped into a world that is honest and brutal, as the truth of such things always is. We move quietly through memory from the start in Red Flags,
“two weeks before he died he ran away, / rode his bike to the diner, sat alone in a booth. // He waited for someone to notice he was gone.”
Soon after, we begin to see a blossoming neighborhood, a community of family and friends who help to bring back memories and insights, which enliven the speaker's story by picking up the pieces.
This poetry collection is a reckoning with memory, guilt, and truth that few of us have the courage to face down in such a direct way. But by doing so, Joan Kwon Glass has done us all a service, by struggling through the work that must be done, we see courage in the face of tragedy. Throughout this collection, a voice as unrelenting as waves to the shore continues to tell us we cannot be afraid to give this love any longer:
“place your ear to the floor, / listen for whatever echo / death leaves behind // instead hear the family next door / greet each other half heartedly / at the end of another day”
Perhaps the sense of time within the world of the book is what helps to make Frankie’s voice, when Glass chooses to use it, so full and real. Months, sometimes years have passed between poems. Loss has created an empty space, and you get the sense Glass is showing us how that space is shifting, changing, and alive to possibility:
“Every darkness we bear hides such small mercies.”
This book is heavy, and not something to pick up casually; as the author said to me, “It can be difficult, so take care of yourself while reading.” And she was right to say so. But if you accept the weight, you will make it through, and when you do, you will have the kind of connection between reader and author that makes one stronger. You will know that it’s possible to make it through to the other side.
Full title: How to Make Pancakes for a Dead Boy
Author name: Joan Kwon Glass
Publisher/Imprint: Small Harbor Publishing
Publication date: January 10, 2022
Page count: 44
Daniel J Flosi sometimes thinks they are an apparition living in a half-acre coffin within the V of the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. Daniel is a poetry reader at Five South, and is the founder/EiC of Black Stone / White Stone. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Funicular Magazine, Olney Magazine, Rejection Letters Feral Poetry and many more. His chapbook Cries, the Midnight Sky is forthcoming (2023) with Bullshit Lit. Drop a line @MuckerMaffic.