We All Know Nothing Ever Really Comes Close: Tornado Is the World by Catherine Pierce
reviewed by SARAH ESCUE

Saturnalia Books, 2016

“The tornado is made of everything you can never love, everything you can never look at without wincing, which is why in your naiveté, you write it, sing it, talk it into anything else” (Pierce, 28). Catherine Pierce’s third collection The Tornado Is the World is a warning flare, an exploration. Pierce conjures poems that tornado and spew devastating truths about the human experience and the uncertainty of life. She writes, “I’ve been thinking lately and always of the ways we might end—me, him, everyone we say goodnight to” (71). She salvages through the wreckage of body and terrain, in search for joy amidst devastation. She wanders alongside “chickens plucked naked, goats in bedrooms, trout silvering in a cotton field,” imaginary vacations, screech owls, howling sirens, static radios, TV snow. She explores the mind’s landscape, comparing it to “a forest in which you’ll wander forever, or a forest in which you’ll make your home” (62)—a place of uncertainty, of potential. 

Pierce’s linguistic playfulness is as ubiquitous as the smoke-gray wind that whirls from page to page of this collection. With empathy, stunning insight, and surprise, she writes for the frightened, for ruin, and for regrowth. Pierce reminds us of the potential for joy in the midst of destruction: “Joy—it’s that feeling you have when a red sun rises out of a place you never thought could house a sun” (69). With remarkable linguistic precision and under-the-skin imagery, Pierce describes the scythe-sharp brutality and beauty of the world—how the world is dim and smog-covered, as well as “lit by undark, unbrick” (64). 

Catherine Pierce is a rare winter tornado, her voice shaking the pines of each grinning, spinning poem. Her haunting lilt of syllables rushes and winds from poem to poem as she challenges danger to come closer and closer, so she can have her own narrow escape: “I know I shouldn’t say it aloud, but aren’t we all thinking it? We all know nothing ever really comes close” (20). Pierce reminds readers that through the cracks of a crumbling building, the sunlight can still be seen. 

SARAH ESCUE is a poet, editor, and visual artist in Colorado. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Gulf Stream, Dialogist, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, Lullwater Review, and others. You can visit her website at sarahescue.com. 

The Adirondack Review