The TellIn New York City poet Rachel Zucker’s [see her 12 or 20 questions here; see my earlier interview with her here] third poetry collection, The Bad Wife Handbook (Middletown Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2007), she writes out the small, incongruous details of domestic life. The Bad Wife Handbook explores some of the nuances of living the world of husband, children and simply living, including the darker moments of being domestic, and being a wife, mother, neighbour, writer and lover (why she calls it the “bad wife” handbook; how to be a bad wife, perhaps, by watching her), as well as being the author of such poems as these, such as the poems in the “Autography” series:
The basketball makes him not my husband
and saying so in poems makes me
the bad wife. Where is the private, i.e., impassive
mask I purchased for my wedding
but then forgot to wear?
My mind wrote me a letter requesting to be
left out of it. My body sent flowers
and a note: “sorry for your loss.”
But both paid to see the flop and stayed in ‘til the river.
Better to fold the winning hand than fall in love
with your cards, says the husband.
AutographyHow is it possible for poems to be so easily self-aware without being self-conscious? Or, as she wryly states in the long poem “The Rise and Fall of the Central Dogma,” “That sex is an effective way of generating warmth.” Zucker’s poetry works with such a complicated ease, a collage work of words, image and phrases built in sequence and never apart, never separated from the poem and poems that follow.
I want to change your mind. Not
You’re, as you are, what I want, even his
blinking neon: [no] indecision
vacancy sign. I have room
for you and these untrue
I mean disloyal
a penny. Hardly
in a history of immodest
women: want, wants, wonton, I.
Lied. Said I’d be
satisfied with ____.
I want to ruin your life.
Throw them over, some
ruin, some proven—
the rest is marriage
by which we bear up
and better ourselves.