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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Black Sheep, Rising is a non-fiction memoir in prose and verse written by C. Streetlights. What exactly is a black sheep and how did the term ever come to have the connotation it bears of describing the outcast, the misfit, the left-out-of-it? Streetlights examines the state of black-sheep-ness in this collection of essays and poems that comprise her memoir. Her early life, marred by the constant warring of her parents and her exclusions from the escapes enjoyed by her elder siblings, still shines quite brightly in places, especially those memories of her grandfather, who conspired in her continuing questions, her love of the word,'why', responding in glee, with his own favorite, 'why not?' She brings to life his "mischievous eyes/white mustache/and experiments to conduct." "The science teacher in him/loved teaching The grandfather in him/loved inspiring/Together we pulled from the same vine."
Streetlights bares the shame of being cast out from the group as a young child for internal counting and being sent to put her head on the desk, away from story time and the pictures that brought it life, and how that trauma would darken all subsequent days spent in that class; likewise she mourns the journal of her fourth grade fantasies, found by her strict and angry mother; each page's secrets revealed, trampled upon and destroyed; a journal she would never write in again.
I think, however, that my favorite memory shared by this poet is that of her fierce and fearsome ballet instructor, Athena and her Dance Palace. A woman who was larger than life, and whose 8x10 photographs from her professional heydays inspired and made her fall in love with the eyes that "smiled beguilingly at me from those photographs and convinced me every week: this was where I needed to be." Heroes are found in the oddest of places, even in tiny strip malls and boxy business parks, and Athena, with her deep husky smoker's voice and rich laughter had easily achieved that heroic status and given a wary child a place to belong.
Streetlights' poetry is sparse, filled with images as all nature conspires with her being, and wonder fills all. In Meteor, form follows function as a star hanging as if by a thread suddenly falls, her words and the shape of the poem echoing that sense of aloneness and falling. In Magnolia, she rediscovers the sheltering warmth and love to be found in the stretched-out branches of a magnolia tree, the way "the leaves shushed the world around them and curved in a way that reminded me of gentle smiles," the warmth of that massive trunk holding a silence, as the world became quieted under that tree: "I couldn't hear the tension in my home or feel the yelling between my parents...I could be lost for as many moments as I could get away with. My personal Eden only has magnolia trees."
C. Streetlights’ memoir in prose and verse, Black Sheep, Rising, is a celebratory act of creation that resonated most strongly with me. I was awed by the fierce and fearless way this poet shares her life, her vision and her world with her readers and found myself captivated by the images she made appear so vividly therein. Black Sheep, Rising is most highly recommended.