Our past is nothing but a house of ghosts — every love lost, mistake and indecision that remains — haunting us towards absolution. Poet Brian Fanelli offers up his own pardon in his latest collection, “All That Remains.”
Fanelli, who gained local recognition long before his first publication, “Front Man,” in 2010, has since transitioned to the national spotlight with his 2013 nomination for the Pushcart Prize.
The collection of 58 poems is moving and quick-paced. The poetry is conversational, each piece a soulful song flowing with rhythm, confidence and power. Even considering Fanelli’s popularity, he has continued to develop and accelerate his work, all the while remaining humble and hungry for more — a true exemplar in Fanelli’s ability to learn, improve and never stop asking questions.
In his titled poem, “All That Remains,” Fanelli writes: “I paid for cab after cab that day / because she said she hates the sound of rain, / and I remembered our nights together, / how she couldn’t sleep if rain / drummed on our roof, / pinged against garbage cans. / Sounds like ghosts / tapping at windows, / the past always whispering, she’d say. / When I asked what ghosts, / or brushed her back or breasts, / she recoiled under covers.” As if exorcising those memories to mend the past, Fanelli gives us every detail, the good and bad like twisted metal in a collision. Even after ruin, we can separate the pieces, moving forward from the remains.
The transition of the poems is exceptionally executed, each poem almost becoming a chronology of life. To balance the structure, as we read, we can sense the narrator’s growth, one that ultimately comes to acceptance of the past. The work is an enjoyable and bracing read, which is why you may find yourself re-reading the collection again. Fanelli captures a breadth of themes and experiences throughout. Particular dog-eared favorites include: “Morning Routines,” “For BP,” “How She Hides Her Age,” “Ride Home, Rutgers, November,” and “The Old Neighborhood”.
The collection blossoms before readers as we hang on to word after striking word. It resounds on a local level with Fanelli’s presentation of Northeast Pennsylvania’s history as seen through the eyes of factory workers, miners and teachers. Overall, however, “All That Remains” is a collection that is relatable on a universal scale — a book that beckons to the past — our ghosts and the road we must take in order to move on. In the end, all that remains is beauty.
‘All That Remains’ by Brian Fanelli Rating: W W W W W