Winner of the National Poetry Series
Mothers masquerading as witches and sepulchral bellhops who reveal themselves to be fathers: in Justin Boening's debut collection of poems, selected for the National Poetry Series by Wayne Miller, nothing is as it seems.
Peopled by figures both uncanny and tragic—lionesses who dance and cry, surgeons who carry with them the trauma of past lives, an opera singer whose notes go awry—Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last uses the language of dreams and of fairy tales to deliver a keenly felt exploration of family, grief, regret, and belonging. Here everything stands for something else. But though the Freudian mother and father lurk behind every sequined costume, continue to strip away the masks, Boening suggests, and you'll find an even more primal absence at the center—Nobody, No One, mortality, death. Beyond that, we find, lies only the truth of our relationships with each other.
Shot through with mournfulness, gorgeously spangled in its language—"a squall of chrysanthemums / and the weird"—Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last is an unforgettable collection about our human failings and the grace we each seek.