Poetry. LGBTQIA Studies. The confluence in the title of this debut collection from Samantha DeFlitch describes the meeting of three rivers, the Monongahela and Allegheny which come together at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio. The three sections of her book are named for these rivers, and there are many poems of place here, the author's home turf, its backroads and bridges, state lines, amusement parks, a town called Zelienople, even Pittsburgh itself, depicted most provocatively as a city of accidental lesbians. But as a gas station attendant says when she answers where she is from, Nobody lives in Pittsburgh, an observation that shifts the register from the physical to the psyche, and to a different sort of confluence, the way in which we are all products of everything that has come before and come together to form our lives. DeFlitch depicts this in the construction of her poems. There are many recurring images and motifs, of oranges and blackbirds, dogs, pierogis, gas stations, concern over the aging of parents, of aging herself, of a boy named John who put a bullet in his head because he didn't want to grow old --and of folding chairs that turn up everywhere, such a brilliantly efficient exemplar of the temporary. She repeats words, lines, even nearly entire poems, and in this manner her poems resemble merging waters, full of ripples, eddies, swirls, back currents of detritus, endlessly forming and reforming over time and space.
The book opens with a striking and disturbing dreamlike scene of peeling an orange to find within it an endless succession of rotten oranges, a surreal suggestion of a world composed of decay, giving way to a swirl of blackbirds over a horizon, a lake overflowing a dam, a chaos of interwoven imagery. That unsettled and unsettling vision informs this entire collection, a confluence of currents which DeFlitch must navigate in her life journey from today-woman to someday-woman. Tell me, she asks at one point, am I holy / or just alone? The answer, of course, for her and for us all, is both. But the final poem begins with the equally arresting fact that a pig cannot raise its head to see the sky unassisted, which prompts DeFlitch to conclude Earthbound is probably / better. We all start / getting ideas when we / look up, and the pigs, / they always seemed so / pleased where they were, / rooting in soft earth. / No need to look up for God / when the holy was there, / beneath their trotters... What begins in chaos ends in hope: we have, and we are, all that we need. I have what it takes to be average, she declares. Perhaps; but not where her poetry is concerned --in that, she is exceptional.