Through imagery taken from the rich ecology of the southern Appalachian Mountains, James Riley’s poetry searches out the interconnectedness between the workings of the mind and the world of absolute sensation, finding in the blending of the two some essence of spiritual fulfillment. These poems are at once cerebral, naturalistic, and elegiac. Blessedly free of any dogma, they are a most welcome and refreshing read.”
—CHRIS HOLBROOK, author of Upheaval and Hell and Ohio
“Is there not at least one universe in each of our memories?/ This question…echoes throughout this collection. With tenderness, intelligence, and at times humor, these poems probe for meaning within the moments of lives lived and lost, remembered and forgotten. James Riley has produced an elegiac collection that also celebrates the mystery of existence, reminding us, like the poet H. D., that the mysteries remain.”
—RHONDA PETTIT, author of Riding the Wave Train and editor of the Blue Ash Review
“There is a grave tenderness in these poems, not only in their gratitude for the daily miracles the earth and human love lay out for us, but also in their acceptance of the inevitabilities of our mortality—a mixture of love and pain and grief and hilarity.”
—MARY ANN TAYLOR-HALL, author of Out of Nowhere and Come and Go, Molly Snow
If as readers we are willing to consider Einstein’s posit that the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one, then Broken Frequencies offers proof of this connection and more. James Riley’s existential narrators stand at the edge, observing life and the actions of the self and others as if from the vantage point of out-of-body consciousness. From this perspective we are asked in the title poem: Do we not see ourselves in those who came before us/ and those who follow? What were those brief moments/ but the years we watched burn slowly from outside the motion/ of our lives? And “From Love in the Many Worlds”: The future and the past are connected/ in mysterious ways. It is important/ to know what question to ask of a moment/ both lost and found…where we are and where we are going/ measured in small disappointments/ balanced on the edge of forgiveness. Riley’s narrators have an innate understanding of the impact time has on each of us, that any given moment is but a snapshot of what would otherwise be full motion along the continuum. Except even the continuum is an illusion, since time is also cyclical, or our place in it is. Imagine my surprise when I look down/ and realize it wasn’t my father who got old. …I know this ground as sure as I know the voice I hear calling for me to follow/ and not be afraid, each measured step/ a homecoming (“My Father on the Fire Tower”). The logical progression is, naturally, an exploration of the connection between the living and the dead, and anyone who is paying attention surely realizes The sense of all endings are for those who do not understand/ the nature of the story being told… (“Broken Frequencies”). In “The Heart’s Sad Music” the narrator asks Where else might our dreams take us/ but to the people we have always loved?/ They rise from our memories like a song/ caught between the moment we reach/ for the phone and the moment we realize/ no one is going to answer. Riley’s poems ask that we, like his characters, have faith in a natural universe we had no role in creating, a universe we are as much a part of as the families we come from: The leaves in the trees, the stars in the sky,/ their very atoms lie in the palms of our hands,/ a remnant from some other place in time,/ the long ago and far away of our lives before/ we found ourselves falling into eternity (“Love in the Many Worlds”). James Riley’s collection, then, is a lesson in physics that reminds us to be present, because images pass so quickly they carry no sense of time or place (“Home Movies”), and that we and those we love—like the meteor shower overhead—are the stuff of stars/ pulled from the unknown universe to the known/ by some inevitable force of mutual attraction/ the gravity of being caught so completely/ in one another’s arms. (“Love in the Many Worlds”).
—Audrey Naffziger, author Desire to Stay