Lee Potts’ And Drought Will Follow attempts to piece together familial memory through objects—compasses, coins, even photographs. Yet we quickly learn that our human endeavors to stop and capture time will always fall short of nature’s own proficiency for remembering. How do we heal “the injuries time inflicts” when “photos make us fools”? How does one properly grieve a dead father when every family photo is “already a lie / moments after it was taken”? If photos fail to recall, the earth doesn’t. In these poems, even tree roots grow their way towards water, that which remembers all. If water “remembers briefly / everything that touched it,” then we can only hope that healing waits in water’s aftermath, in the drought that may follow.
The poems in And Drought Will Follow are haunted by a father’s memory and the items that remain: a compass, a cane, a coin. “The pool / remembers briefly / everything that touched it,” Potts writes in “Standing Water,” and these poems remember too. The book’s title prepares us to expect the drought, the loss, that will inevitably come, yet Potts also offers us rivers and rain, pools and ponds, and he sends us off with kisses and music, with life pushing forward.
And Drought Will Follow invites us into a place of hard stubborn things – shards, buckles, cups, combs, brass gears and springs. Lee Potts offers a book that you read not just with your eye, but with your hand; in this book words are tools wielded by someone who respects tools as much as he respects the world they serve and shape, interrogate and celebrate. Of his father’s tools, Potts writes, They caught the exact size of things/ by reach, touch, sight. The same could be said of what’s in this poet’s toolbox. In one of the most compelling poems of the book, “Standing Water,” the poet writes, We/learned/to still ourselves/to allow our/ bodies’ hollow/ chambers/to lift us again/above the weight/of water, and our/breath/ returned our voices to us. The measured, beautifully crafted lines in And Drought Will Follow immerse us in a richly evocative world, but they also help to lift us above the weight of the world and to return our voices to us.
There is something comfortingly vintage about Lee Potts’ poetry collection, And Drought Will Follow, with its mention of rich soil and family photos. And yet, each poem provides, also, a sense of unsettling. Perhaps it’s the circling crows. Perhaps it’s the saltless ghosts. Perhaps it’s the unshakable coffin.
These poems are haunted by generations’ connection to the land, what it gives and what it denies. Living connections between water, trees and roots are not only evoked but invoked while people move in and out of focus through memory and presence. The poems are beautifully made, a pleasure to read and consider.
In And Drought Will Follow, Lee Potts offers us a haunting set of thing-poems. He brings the qualities of everyday objects to our close attention, but also shows how we weave their presence into our stories, leaving our emotional traces on them. In this quietly physical writing, Potts explores love and life in the shadow of mortality, the meaning of heredity, and the invigorating shock of our encounters with the material, whether we are digging into the earth or jumping into a cold pool. This is a rich and thoughtful debut pamphlet from a poet who makes every word count.