Double Cross Press, a small press located in Minneapolis, recently released the fifth chapbook in their “Single Sheet Series”. The Grave on the Wall, by Brandon Shimoda, is a delicate chapbook roughly one-fourth the size of a piece of notebook paper. Or the size of my small to medium hand, if my hand were perfectly rectangular in shape. Only twelve pages long, it is slender in shape but plump in impact.
The chapbook is encased in a soft paper the color of a deep periwinkle. It appears handmade and has thin, raised veins that run up, down, and across the page. Like the fine lines etched into the palm of a hand or a frozen pond fighting against the ever expanding cracks of its surface. In the bottom right corner of the cover, a small image sits unobtrusively in black and white against the periwinkle. This image, somewhat indescribable, is repeatedly used inside of the chapbook as well. It appears to be a melding of stretched out circles formed into the shape of an upside down heart. I was immediately reminded of a bundle of rubber bands or a gathering of smooth ribbons.
Upon opening the book, I was delighted to find a soft, white paper that the publishers say was taken from a “sumi-e sketch pad”. As I slid my fingers across the white page, I felt a deep urge to wash my hands so that I would not ruin the delicate perfectness of it all. The paper is so thin and transparent that you can see the innards of the following page, and so on.
The image that is on the cover also works as a precursor to the poetry; it is allowed its own space on a single page before each page of poetry. The transparency of the paper also works double-time as you flip each page upwards. This permits the image to mirror what you have previously seen, providing a reversed image and driving home the picture of a heart. As you progress through the poetry, the image becomes larger and larger on each page and has slight differences in shape.
As I was reading Shimoda’s poetry, I was overcome with his pairing of words such as: “pours emerald mucilage” and “exhales/ wind brains” and “a lot/ of handsome people/ recline on the rocks, playing faucet to the sun” and “persimmon bombs”. The darkness in the poetry is tangible and as you read, the repeated drawing that slides between the poetry begins to change shape. With each turn of the page, I pictured different organs: a heart, a lung, a brain. It is constantly molding, taking a different form of its previous self. Likewise, Shimoda’s poetry felt like different incarnations, each gaining something new, distinct, and profound with each life.
Both the poetry and the design of the chapbook are lovely gifts given to the reader. It is plain to see that a substantial amount of time, energy, and care where poured into this lovely, mesmerizing piece of art.
—by Sarah Jennings