Review of Bouquet of Fears by Noa Covo

Review by DW McKinney

Reading Bouquet of Fears is to stand barefoot on the edge of a seaside cliff, staring down the expanse before you as the waves gnaw at the ground beneath you. It is both a plaintive declaration of self and a tacit acknowledgement of the unknown. This microchapbook by Noa Covo is a piercing progression of self, mind, and history detailed in three short stories.

“Ocean” reflects on the unnamed narrator’s primordial origins and the monsters that followed their ancestors from the ocean’s depths. These monsters don’t become flesh and bone but terrors that make “their way up from my stomach and nestle around my heart.” The story merges with “Bouquet of Fears,” another story that beautifully unravels the narrator’s fears. It’s unclear if these fears are the manifestation of the monsters in “Ocean,” but it doesn’t matter. They carry their own urgency. There’s a delightful power in the way that each fear blooms and is named—or plucked—into existence. The last story, “There Used to be a Sea Here,” brings the collection full circle. Where once the narrator emerged from the wet dark, they long to stand on the rocky shore of what one assumes is hope or wholeness, as they proclaim, “there used to be a sea here” —the monsters receded with the tides long ago and a new history carved within themselves.

Covo writes with a sharp elegance that ensnares the reader. Her words carry us along on a journey that ends as it began, back at the sea, where we ebb and flow. And this is why Bouquet of Fears must be read again and again. There’s so much to uncover in the brief pages. The words need to rest on the reader’s tongue so that they can divine the salt, bitterness, and sweetness in each line.