My Private Property, Mary Ruefle, 2016

This wonderful collection could have been listed under poetry but I chose essays, because even her prose poems read like mini-jewel-like essays.  She’s weird but wonderful.  She sees the world in a unique manner and translates those observations into tight, visual, emotionally laden language.  One series of short essays that occur sporadically throughout the book is a series on colors and sadness.  Blue (sadness of reverie and nostalgia), purple (sadness of classical music and eggplant, the stroke of midnight, human organs, ports cut off for part of every year, words with too many meanings, incense, insomnia, and the crescent moon.’), black (…sadness torn and sadness rent, it is the hole in sadness from which no words escape and no soul can spring…”), gray (sadness of paper clips and rubber bands, of rain and squirrels and chewing gun, ointments and unguents, and movie theaters.”), red (‘the secret one; it is an upside-down penny concealed beneath a tea cozy.”), green (“ sadness dressed for graduation, it is the sadness of June, of shiny toasters as they come out of their boxes, the table laid before the party, the smell of new strawberries….”), pink (the sadness of deprivation, of going without, of having to swallow when your throat is no bigger than an acupuncture pin.”), orange (‘the sadness of anxiety and worry, it is the sadness of an orange balloon drifting over snow capped mountains…”), yellow (‘the surprise sadness, the sadness of explosion and expansion, a superior joy and a superior sadness.”  , white (‘sadness of cereal, shower caps, and literary foam, sadness of radio waves traveling through space forever.”), and brown (‘the simple sadness, the sadness of huge, upright stones.’) are all given attributes of sadness in these chapters and many beautiful, ‘aha’ moments as well.  The eponymous essay is strangely about shrunken heads and the Congo Museum in Brussels—colonialism, aging, death, anthropology, and war all come together in this single 14 page essay, one of the longest in the book.  It’s hard to summarize Ruefle.  Here previous book Madness, Rack, and Honey was a real favorite, so even though much of her work is complex and unreachable for me, so much more is beautiful and thought-provoking.  Read this.