Neverheless, hello by Christopher Goodrich
Bowling Green, KY: Steel Toe Books, 2009
Paper, 77 pp.
Fables of Contemporary Life
Among the countless poets, some are at ease in the Zen master’s chair, slyly distilling contemporary folklore, or offering odes of wry praise or comfort in grief. The thematic patterning of these books, and Christopher Goodrich’s first book Nevertheless, hello is one such, invokes family and community—and their entailments—desire, disappointment, reconciliation, loss, grief in domestic settings––and invites us to think about the scenarios that unfold there. Spontaneous, ironic and tender, richly colloquial, Goodrich’s wry poems do this much as a parable might, inculcating a kind of virtue without insistence.
There’s something, too, of the country and western song in these poems. In ”Fidelity,” Goodrich writes, “We have both lived a little too long/in rooms a little too small for our furniture. . . .
You know what time I wake to piss
And I have swallowed your cheap California charm
At many a forgotten dinner party. We come together
And we go together, and if one of us
Is late or sad, the other is inches away,
Looking for leftovers. But we would not give
It up, for we are bettered
By bitching by braying even a little
Disaster is reason for staying.
. . . . .
But I have known no beauty
Like the one of return. . .[70-71]
Sensible about marriage, the poet-narrator dryly acknowledges the eddies and flurries the mind undergoes while the body is being faithful. Divided like a novel into chapters, Nevertheless, hello takes on these themes of first love and first marriage, and the chaos, pain, and comedy that may accompany them. The poet-narrator writes “for my first wife, while married to my second,”
. . . If we never speak again,
that would be fine—honestly, I have nothing to ay.
But maybe you do. And maybe I could sit with my arms
Unfolded, kind-of-closing my eyes. I mean,
I’d like to hear you without hearing myself. 
Steering through the wreckage of romance in turn of the century America, the poet records the turns and the toll relationships can take, “how a thing like weather changes everything,” . Even when he’s slyly asking us to reconsider old adages, like “never go to bed angry with your spouse,” Goodrich cleaves to the rhythms and pitches of American speech.
Tonight, we are going to bed angry. . .
Let us lie with anger
Until it knows the way we walk. . .
The way, finally, we return
To bed with nothing or with fists—
Their impossible opening and closing.
It is how we hold on to everything,
How we knock on the door
Of our making. . . 
In this age when we can so rarely rely on conventional societal precepts to guide our thinking, Goodrich offers a fresh possibility.
“Love Letter to a Woman Who Refuses to Recognize my Existence” is really an ode to a beautiful woman he sees on a train, with all the ode’s flatteries, exaggerations, and lyric excess, but full, also, of Goodrich’s characteristic spontaneity, finely attuned ear from natural rhythms and sounds, and wry humor.
You step into my life
Like most people step on to a train.
By lifting your right foot, then your left.
Wondering where to store your luggage,
Looking for a seat next to someone
Who will let you read your Tolstoy
In peace. . . .
We are here to ignore each other.
. . . .
I open my mouth because you are stunning
Against the glass, the green, the blue, wet white
and gray. How are you living, I say,
What do you do for money?
I’ll call you my Isabelle.
I haven’t spoken for days,
So, I’ll start the conversation.
Let’s talk about some people,
And why they chose to read alone.
Or how we will survive a long-distance relationship.
What about Charley if it’s a boy?
How about Gregory if we make him a brother? [4-5]
This poet-narrator may be a wife’s dream: a liberated, amiable all-American boy-man, who sings of “nothing …sweeter than sparkling porcelain, scrubbed dishes,/ bleached sinks,” and “four loads of laundry later,” of polishing his image “into the stovetop.”
His poems are insightful, humorous, occasionally tender, occasionally sentimental, instructing us to “kiss something./If the reason you wake is to give/and take, please kiss something” . How many women poets (I can think of several) express falling in love as a kind of drowning? Goodrich, naturally enough, stands that image on its head:
The way a river drowns what it loves.
That’s how much I love you. 
Goodrich’s poems are far from the rarified verbal strata of John Ashbery or Milton, an atmosphere only some can abide. The rest of us take in the quips, allusions, metaphors and slogans around us the way we breathe––naturally, almost without effort. Some of this verbal culture entertains, some of it influences behavior—and changes the culture. Reading these poems, I came away with the sense of listening to a thoughtful young person who lives with intention and purpose, who has (not without struggle) attained insight and maturity. The moral nature of the material slyly shapes the contours, the line and stanza breaks as the poem scrolls down the page––reflecting and confirming certain aspects of American culture––individual, tolerant, skeptical, organically shaped and evolving.
This review originally appeared on PoetsWest website: http://www.poetswest.com/poetry_reviews.htm#Goodrich
Zara Raab often writes about the fault lines between city dwellers and the poor, rural towns people to the north. Her poems and articles has appeared in Arts & Letters, White Ink, West Branch, Nimrod International Journal, Poetry Flash and elsewhere. Her book Swimming the Eel is coming out next year from David Robert Books. She lives and writes in San Francisco. www.zararaab.com