Between Twilight by Connie Post

(New York Quarterly Books)

Review by Linda Scheller

Connie Post understands the price pain exacts on the body and psyche, and she writes about it exceptionally well. In Between Twilight, her new poetry collection from New York Quarterly Books, the speaker clearly grew up in a state of suffering, yet the book’s tone is matter-of-fact.  Whereas many people temper pain and the aftermath of trauma with chemical interventions, distraction, or repression, the speaker in Between Twilight deploys candor to turn pain and the memory of suffering into wisdom.

Readers will immediately notice the paucity of punctuation in Between Twilight. The absence of internal and end punctuation suggests the persistent nature of trauma and the weariness exacted by the battle against pain. Here are the first three stanzas from “Fibromyalgia”:

The doctors say

the neurotransmitters

have lost their way

the grass has grown too tall

and covered a road

once known

they say

the language of synapse

is tinged with

a song too loud

a symphony gone mad

Post’s lack of capitalization suggests stream of consciousness, and the metaphors of grass and music convey the mind’s tendency toward associative thought.

A similar intimacy of imagery and ideas can be found in “Estrangement”:

and soon

twenty years of silence

has passed

you watch a burning city

from far away

and notice a pigeon flying towards you

gaining speed

pulling the sky’s edges with it

Whereas this poem considers the distancing effect of time’s passage on painful memories, other poems express deep appreciation for the present. The speaker’s contemplation of warm, close companionship at times borders on disbelief, sometimes accompanied by the anticipation of loss or an acute awareness of the loved one’s pain.

Post’s sensitivity and capacity for empathy are brought to bear in “Living the Days of Corona” (74-75) where she uses a simile from popular culture:

after dinner

I find a new graph

on the trajectory of deaths

in my region

I watch the curve spike

and see small images of people

falling off the back

like that scene in


when everyone

fell off the ship

some to the ocean

some to the decks below

some plummeting

some holding on

some lonely

when the water

froze their stories in time

The scene is heartbreaking, and Post’s decision to echo that moment of the film to comment on the pandemic is both apt and vivid.

One of the most poignant poems in Between Twilight, “All My Wounds Are Self-Inflicted,” opens with “burn marks,” proceeds to skeletal calcification “from dilapidated memories,” and then:

I practice

how to breathe through


It doesn’t hurt anymore

anyone can wash their body

in a lather of scorn

that numbs the skin

That there is no end stop preceding “It doesn’t hurt anymore” is typical of the poems in this collection, but here we encounter one of the rare instances in which capitalization is used outside of the first-person singular pronoun. That distinction draws special attention to a statement that consists of only four words, a solitary line suspended between white space. Post knows how to pack power into small utterances. The simplicity of language and judicious understatement in “All My Wounds Are Self-Inflicted” imbue the voice of an abused child with stark authenticity. The stoicism in the two lines comprising the poem’s penultimate stanza, “I counted the bruises the next day / and was proud that I never cried” elicit both pity and fury on behalf of the child.

Between Twilight is a collection of well-wrought poetry that gives readers ample opportunity to better understand and empathize with survivors of child abuse and persistent trauma. There are many among us burdened with painful memories who suffer in shame and silence. Poetry can help us heal.