Trey Moody, Climate Reply
Publisher: New Michigan Press
2010, 27 pages, paperback, $9

IN HIS DEBUT collection of poems, Climate Reply, Trey Moody surfaces with a vibrant, calculated, determined voice that confronts desire and absence with such force that one feels as if he has been hit in the stomach; and the radiating waves that are simultaneously relief and pain sustain until the next strike. These sparse, intelligent meditations provide insight into the instances in our consciousness that we cannot completely rationalize, yet Moody acknowledges how we become familiar with the state of mind and the emotions that accompany them. His work navigates through these occurrences as an eye, willing to focus on any and all objects as it seeks edges and hopes to find the shape of oneself or one’s beloved in the midst of shadow.  However, the voice of this collection recognizes the possibility of paralysis and suffocation—the inability to find footing or to be eased, especially in times of profound sorrow, longing, and uncertainty. 

The series “Dear Ghosts,” which is dispersed throughout the book, is the adhesive that bonds the collection as a whole. In these poems, one is haunted by the silence and stillness enforced by Moody’s imagery, as well as his awareness of how inescapably strange existence is. Taken together, “Dear Ghosts” is a call to the self and to another, a whisper with the power of a shout; and the poems feature a voice that knows it will lose something in the future:

All this is to say, you still
surprise me. But it’s more like fear

when it’s dark. Your breath,
suddenly, on my face,

then your two big eyes!—
So at first, I would stay up and eat,

but the night was always calling me in.

One cannot help but transfer the qualities of absence and desire in “Dear Ghosts” to the meditative investigations of the other poems.  As a result, lines such as “The beetle can’t roll over from its back / and the glass jar weighs down the counter, ” highlight Moody’s ability to layer observation with strange profundity and despair in ways reminiscent of Simic’s The World Doesn’t End.   

Another impressive attribute of Moody’s work is his command over line and space.  His ability to mirror form and content and reader response with such precision stems from a refreshing attention to the complexity of language lost among many young poets.  In the moments when he is briefest, one feels short of breath; and when the lines sprawl across the page, Moody cues one to make room in the mind so it may hold statements so grand as, “Once, someone used the brain to discover the mouth. / Yet the fire truck wails down the street, urging / everyone: listen to the size of your existence.” 

On the whole, Climate Reply is an invitation to explore the uncertain but familiar places in the heart and mind where the only ways to reconcile loss and desire—and ultimately to conceive an outline of oneself and whomever one calls to—are through admissions, apologies, and memories.  With intense pain, pleasure, and guilt, these poems say enough! I’m sorry, and please come in.

—Jason Coates