I wake some mornings to find a fox trotting down my sidewalk — not with any regularity, but often enough to know that there’s a fox in the neighborhood who comes out of hiding in the early morning hours to do whatever foxes do. (Hunt? Forage? Shop for groceries?) There’s always something mystical about the fox. Even if it may not be true, I always remember seeing the fox on misty mornings, always imagine it disappearing into the fog. In my mind, the fox is magical because, really, what’s it doing in my neighborhood, a few scant miles from a major US city in the 21st century? In this age of cell phones, plasma television, superhighways, and mega-malls, the sudden appearance of a fox can be as disconcertingly wonderful as seeing a ghost: as far as civilization has come, such apparitions seem to say, there’s always room for mystery.
I mention all of this not because I’m especially enamored with wildlife, but because the image of a fox runs through sum of every lost ship, the debut collection of poetry by Allison Titus, and its effect, like that of the volume as a whole, is much like that of the real fox I’ve caught prowling around my neighborhood. That is, it serves as a reminder that our lives run parallel to other lives that are mysterious and alien to us, lives that have no care for human concerns, lives that are oblivious to the trappings of postmodern living.
And it’s not just the animal kingdom that our 21st-century lives parallel, this volume insists. We’re also living in the same spaces as those who have gone before us. Indeed, the images Titus uses throughout sum of every lost ship suggest a conflation of several centuries. Or, to put it another way, this volume folds time and space so that shepherds, narwhals, giants, and all manner of creatures both real and imagined haunt the seedy motels and abandoned factories that dot our modern landscape.
We live in many worlds, sum of every lost ship insists, and each is ripe with wonder.