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The Small Door of Your Death
Sheryl St. Germain

Autumn House
2018 • 104 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Poetry - Death, Grief, Loss / Poetry - Women Authors

$17.95 Paperback, 978-1-938769-27-6

US, Australia & New Zealand only

“Alcoholism and drug addiction equal death. They follow in that order in this stunning heartbreaking fierce book of grief. No one should lose a son but if he dies after... [continued in Reviews below]”—Grace Cavalieri, The Washington Independent Review of Books

Poet Sheryl St. Germain's collection gracefully and honestly chronicles the deep grief of losing a child

This honest and haunting collection of poems follows the loss of the poet’s only son to heroin addiction. St. Germain takes us through the stages of her grief and offers no false promises or simple answers. These narrative-driven poems are a compelling and compassionate look into addiction and the effect it has on a family.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

Alcoholism and drug addiction equal death. They follow in that order in this stunning heartbreaking fierce book of grief. No one should lose a son but if he dies after a light filled life it is tragic — if he dies after a life of formative pain and struggle, it’s disaster and tragedy. St. Germain provides a platform for the bitter headwind of a mother’s grief — of perseverance and lost reckonings. There’s no sea change for addiction. There’s only drowning. No poetic policies can set that right, but that this book could have been written at all means that somewhere a chorus of Angels is spurring the poet on — for no earthly ability could make her endure page after page of brutal tectonics. This book is epic in shaping a life and death where the coalition of drugs curse and ruin life’s every opportunity. This is penetrating mesmerizing writing. A star shines through the ruin and rubble — evidence that this boy’s spirit lives through his mother’s brave hand.—Grace Cavalieri, The Washington Independent Review of Books

Writers of elegy are compelled to remember their dead, even when they can’t forget them. Therefore, the art’s best practitioners offset despair with a sense of affirmation. They must also articulate universal experience through personal suffering and master aesthetic distance while conveying emotional intensity. Such balances, always hard to strike, are that much more difficult when the poet is a parent mourning the loss of a child. Only the bravest bard risks that charge—and the relentless focus Sheryl St. Germain invests in The Small Door of Your Death proves she’s very brave indeed. With unwavering restraint, she records and deconstructs her son Gray’s losing battle to heroin using an original, disciplined language to express maternal anxiety. The remarkable control with which she handles her subject does not disguise or dampen moments of searing pain. On every page of St. Germain’s fifth book of poems, she manifests what Adrienne Rich once called “wild patience." —Tony Leuzzi, Brooklyn Rail

“In Sheryl St. Germain’s new collection, we find ourselves enthralled by one woman’s attempt to look straight into the eyes of Loss without blinking—to speak, without stuttering, grief’s true name—a name none of us wants to know, though we always listen for its inevitable approach. St. Germain’s work teaches us how to talk back, how to talk through the intimate agonies that, in many ways, define what it means to be human now. Muriel Rukeyser said poetry cannot save us but it is the kind of thing that could.  I think this book is proof of that.”—Tim Seibles

“In this brilliant, wrenchingly beautiful book, Sheryl St. Germain limns the unbearable death of her son via overdose, the agonizing history of her family’s addictions, and her own fragile recovery.  With astonishing lyricism, she gives us “snow and its dark sister: a kind of brutal cold that stings you awake.”  She gives us an “Ode to Needles,” in which the needles of White Spruce and Lodgepole Pine become the needles both she and her son used to inject drugs. And in “Versions of Heaven,” she takes us to a place where her musician son might be “showing the gone ones…how to scat god’s breath.” This book is an invaluable companion for anyone who has wrestled with addiction, or lost a loved one to it. St. Germain knows both the rawness of grief, and the ways we must find to go on living. She can help us learn.”—Ruth L. Schwartz

“These poems chronicle the passage of a mother and her son into the abyss of drugs, sorrow, confusion, hope, despair, and love. The mother’s voice struggles to bear witness, to be present, forgoing excuses while trying to answer why, the question that rings a million times in mothers’ hearts throughout the world, to forever cycle and orbit into every cell of the compassionate and caring heart.   This collection gives us answers in gray, neither black nor white, but as they must be in our human experience, gray as the dawn that precedes the rising sun.”      —Jimmy Santiago Baca

From the Book:


Four months before you die,
you show up at my door
skittish, sober, not yourself,
whatever that self is,
like a dog lost too long in the woods

all you once hoped to be
still lights your face, though:
it is almost a holy light

you are trying to be a good man
you are trying to live in this world
that you hate

I love that you still care enough
to pretend to be
the one I named,
hoped to birth.

SHERYL ST. GERMAIN’s poetry books include Making Bread at Midnight, How Heavy the Breath of God, The Journals of Scheherazade, and Let it Be a Dark Roux: New and Selected Poems. She has written two memoirs, Swamp Songs: the Making of an Unruly Woman, and Navigating Disaster: Sixteen Essays of Love and a Poem of Despair. She co-edited, with Margaret Whitford, Between Song and Story: Essays for the Twenty-First Century, and with Sarah Shotland Words Without Walls: Writers on Violence, Addiction and Incarceration. She directs the MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University and is co-founder of the Words Without Walls program. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:58:08 -0500