In her debut collection, Reliquary, Abigail Wender addresses losing a brother to prison and, ultimately, opiate addiction. The text also considers womanhood, motherhood, and marriage in lyric poems that confront the complicated nature of grief, the effects of illness on family, and how love—even bliss—figure into grief’s equation. The collection suspends time, as the speaker weaves between flashbacks and the present, assembling fragments and vignettes of her childhood and marriage. In the book’s moments of solace and interiority, such as in the poem, “Hiking,” Wender contemplates how to hold on and to what. In this particular poem’s reflection on forgiveness, the speaker asks, “Are there words for us, America, / high on an uppermost branch?,” and the collection responds with a resounding yes.
He’s one more man
lit with prison fluorescence.
The day he’s released, he welcomes me,
“What took you so long?”
Tears in my mouth.
Feckless, I think.
Dressed in street clothes, he looks well enough.
My arm around him, the prodigal,
I bring him to our father’s house.
Oh, I’m not so different from the bitter sibling.