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The poems in Gardner McFall's poignant, stirring collection On the Line fit together like links in a bracelet. Love and light irradiate from the story of her pilot father lost at war and his daughter's becoming herself in his absence, while keeping all the doors of her life open, though she knows the "death-plane" will never return out of the foggy night. Anger, longing, regret, & grief are part of this translucent self-portrait, but also the lucky knowledge that nothing is to be gained from lingering in "history's dark rooms." Out of the blood and valor of war, with its infinite losses, Gardner McFall has created a polished, durable sequence of poems lit with piercing glances into the American life. What a touching and wonderful little book.
On the Line is a remarkable collection of poems whose loss is both universal and deeply personal. Gardner McFall, the daughter of an American pilot who went missing in the Vietnam war, portrays her own daily experience as wife and mother while all the while lamenting her father's death: "I have kept / all the doors open in my life / so that he could walk in." Ironically, she remembers how he dutifully accepted his command, yet privately confessed, "We can't win," a bitter truth the world was to discover about the war. Decades later, trying to make sense of it all, the poet retraces her father's path by traveling to Vietnam. Deepening the quest, she delves into history, myth, and the truth that can be found in the poet's imagery. Her search is never-ending, and it is our search. Her grief is ours.