Dear Ephraim Scott Sommers,
I was sitting in a bay of chairs in the waiting area at the mechanic’s the first time I I read your book. I sat there, wedged between an empty seat and the corner, in a room semi-full of strangers, and started crying.
In Someone You Love Is Still Alive, I was repeatedly punched with poems that left me feeling broken, yet somehow, still hopeful. Battered, beaten, bruised: The violence in your book could not be ignored. But I also could not ignore the tenderness, the sexuality, the religion, the nuanced experience of masculinity and love, and what it means to be both masculine and soft. Your poems stuck with me. I thought about them for days after the first time I read them. I thought about my husband. I thought about his tenderness and his love and his masculinity in a way that I hadn’t before.
Poems like “I Get To Thinking Minister Matt Is Pretty” and “A Bullet Salute For The Year 2012” somehow capture these nuances in a way I have not seen before. The male relationships displayed in these poems, and throughout the book, speak to a larger cultural problem that tells boys and men they can not love each other, and if they do, it is through bullets and bottle rockets. These poems dissect the way that men are told to be strong in the face of tragedy, while simultaneously leaning into love in the face of national tragedies such as the Pulse shooting rendering each poem radically political in nature because the idea of men loving other men can’t not be political.
The urgency of the book is evident by your line breaks and lack of stanzas in many poems. An urgency that struck me while mulling over the lines “we love each other/ but won’t say it/ out loud, the same way/ I’ve never told my father” wondering how many times my husband has chosen not to say “I love you” to his brother, and how often I say it to people I barely even know.
Your book also dives into the way that men are told to love women as you describe the way you love your wife–relentlessly, unapologetically, but also jealously. Worshiping her body, but also recognizing the fact that you feel you must protect her from gropers and TSA agents even when logically irrational you write, “two guards unzip her/ body, touch against her bra/ with two gloved fingers, the ache/ of someone else’s latex walking/ along my lover’s thighs” and “I would sucker punch a plane/ for her, pick a pistol/ from a police man’s holster/ and one arm a hostage/ and I want the universe to know this/ but not here.”
I have read your book three times in the last month. Each time better than the last. Each time giving me a little more to think about, and carry with me as I move through the world. You have forced me to recognize the political in love, but to also appreciate that in the face of tragedy, love is a political statement.