Face Painting in the Dark (Dos Madres Press, 2015) by Ann Cefola is a fantastic example of what beautiful poetry can be. Reflecting on her own experiences, Cefola inserts seemingly trivial everyday situations into her poems and enables the reader to appreciate the miniscule details of life. Face Painting in the Dark is a passionate, yet personal read that inspires the reader to appreciate the beauty of life.
This collection of poems takes the reader on an intriguing adventure filled with emotional experiences. One may equate an adventure to climbing a mountain or swimming across the ocean– but no, Cefola’s adventure is much more simple, yet just as vigorous by just going through everyday life. In “Anthem,” one of her more lighthearted poems, Cefola writes about an ant that she flicks off of her knee then continues to scurry around in her room:
“Is he missing his tribe? Is scent, like a silk thread,
able to take him where the others swarm my outdoor porch?
I consider the exterminator who will come Monday
and I am godlike in my ability to cause devastation and plague
It brings me no joy; I would rather use a bullhorn
to announce This house is for humans, not a formic feast.
We will meet again one day, both of us wandering
around the light, and I will explain that.”
Appearing to be a god to an ant is a silly occurrence, yet it is a minuscule event that many people have experienced at some point in their life. Cefola depicts this by over-exaggerating the encounter, thus making it more enjoyable for the reader.
Not all of Face Painting in the Dark contains lighthearted experiences. “With Apologies to Anna Ancher” is about the late 19th century artist who continued her career as a painter, despite being married:
“At water’s edge, Anna, your gown is draped summer white, hem
all sand and dampness. I run to ask, How did passion turn to duty?
Breathlessly explaining, I gave away my marine canvas.
You vanish, so I tell the sea:
I’d watercolor weekends, muddy trees,
bloated boats and other imperfect strokes.
To wrap myself in this rough canvas: Instead, I press
its firm texture against my face. Anna,
I have taken what the waves continually offered,
curling cold and spreading bubbles like a hand.
Beloved tools, stiff bristles, gray palette knife,
I hold you against my breast, I take you inland.”
The imagery here in an example of what exactly makes Cefola’s poems so beautiful. She encapsulates the beauty of human opportunity through the experiences of a female artist who lived during a time in which opportunity for women was scarce. Face Painting in the Dark is inspirational, enabling the reader to further understand life through the deliberate emphasis on nature.
Ann Cefola’s ability to inspire readers is truly the mark of a great poet. Face Painting in the Dark is a captivating collection of poems that I will certainly continue to read throughout my life. Be sure to pick up a copy of Face Painting in the Dark and immerse yourself into the beauty of being human.