Review: What We Buried by Caitlyn Siehl

“You are not Atlas and the world is not a burden for you to carry.” 

I’ve seen this poetry collection a number of times online, but had no idea what to expect until I opened the book and was instantly enchanted by the second poem titled “Three Questions.” And since I can’t narrow it down to just one quote – I’m in love with the whole of it and how each line adds something more – I’ve decided to share the full poem:

“My mother tells me
that when I meet someone I like,
I have to ask them three questions:

1. what are you afraid of?
2. do you like dogs?
3. what do you do when it rains?

of those three, she says the first one is the most important.
“They gotta be scared of something, baby. Everybody is. If they aren’t afraid of anything, then they don’t believe in anything, either.”I asked you what you were afraid of.
“spiders, mostly. being alone. little children, like, the ones who just learned how to push a kid over on the playground. oh and space. holy shit, space.” 
I asked you if you liked dogs.
“I have three.”
I asked you what you do when it rains.
“sleep, mostly. sometimes I sit at the window and watch the rain droplets race. I make a shelter out of plastic in my backyard for all the stray animals; leave them food and a place to sleep.”
he smiled like he knew.
like his mom told him the same 
“how about you?”

I’m scared of everything.
of the hole in the o-zone layer,
of the lady next door who never
smiles at her dog,
and especially of all the secrets 
the government must be breaking
it’s back trying to keep from us.
I love dogs so much, you have no idea.
I sleep when it rains.
I want to tell everyone I love them.
I want to find every stray animal and bring them home.
I want to wake up in your hair
and make you shitty coffee
and kiss your neck
and draw silly stick figures of us.
I never want to ask anyone else
these questions
ever again.”

Naturally after that I went on with quite high expectations that were for the most part met. The pieces after the above, though, focused heavily on love and heartbreak and “I’m in love with the shape of you” style poems, which I wasn’t really feeling… Also, poems like “Do not fall in love with people like me” set my mood from 100 to 0 real quick.

But just when I was starting to worry that this collection was going to be all about relationships and their aftermath, the narrative shifted to center on feelings of strength with feminist undertones, and I was all the more enraptured. Here are a few of those:

What We Buried 1-- bookspoils


What We Buried 2-- bookspoils


What We Buried 3-- bookspoils


What We Buried 4-- bookspoils

In the end, I was won over by the sheer power I felt while reading about the ineffable strength and endurance, suffering and survival that was explored in What We Buried.

“We survive by surviving.
We do it unconsciously,
the way our bodies remember to
breathe, even when we’re asleep.
The first step is always deciding
to take the first step.”

Also, I listened to this groundbreaking song on repeat while reading, thanks to the most recent Skam clip that’s been utterly and completely carved into my heart:

3.5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying What We Buried, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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