Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dorothea Lasky, Milk

Is it a burden to be so perfect
And to have such perfect children
And to have such a perfect marriage
And to look so perfect all the time
And to make every decision perfectly
Cocktails on Thursday with Sammy—perfect
You know your sweater really does look perfect
That mango salad you made—it turned out perfectly
And that car with your shoes
Goddammit that’s perfect
Your dog—perfect
Your computer
Well it works perfectly
My supervisor—he’s perfect
The desk, it looks perfect
All and all the day was perfect
And lovely and still
What did we do
We walked the earth
So perfect! (“IS IT A BURDEN”)

Following her poetry collections AWE (Wave, 2007), Black Life (Wave Books, 2010), Thunderbird (Wave Books, 2012) and Rome (Liverright/W.W. Norton, 2014) [see my review of such here], New York City poet Dorothea Lasky’s latest is Milk (Wave Books, 2018), a collection of smart, deviously funny, dark and savage lyrics, as she writes as part of the poem “Milk No. 2”:

But when you look at me, I can’t lie
Baby, it’s with love
I never knew what it was to be this way
But then again I never let myself be
Cascade of ocean
The beach was lost and dark
The house was dark dark
I went in, I wasn’t scared
It wasn’t the going in the door that struck me
It was the getting out, or even wandering
What’s behind the hidden doors
Can I find a bed there
Can I set up my electronic things
Can I put this machine on
It’s my armor to protect you
I have nothing
You are in a glass house
The fall of it
Orange hearts one after the other
My true love is sleeping
I tell him, don’t rest
I swirl
I find another
Another with the moon

Lasky’s poems are incredibly visceral, long known for being straightforward and fearless, pushing unflinchingly through some rather dark territory. Her poems are constructed as accumulations, with phrases stacked upon another, moving further and further, heading off into directions unknown that managed somehow to exist simultaneously linked and trailing off into some unknown distance; lost, somehow, and yet connected. Part of the rollercoaster thrill of reading her poems is in seeing just where the poem might end up, often a far distance from where it might open. The poems in this collection are centred on domestic concerns, writing of babies and breastfeeding, of loss, loneliness and miscarriages; she writes of solitude and lovers; she writes from some dark places, and being “fucked up,” from poems ranging from the oddly hilarious “WHY I HATE THE INTERNET” and “KILL MARRY FUCK,” to “MILKING THE REST OF IT” and “POEM FOR THE MOON MAN,” that opens:

Have some mercy Dottie

No sex, just milk
Is the only thing I have to show for all my hormones

A little vulnerable, not a jerk
Is what he said about you

I am starting to think I am profoundly fucked up

And the only one who can save me is the one I let go in the
    river so long ago

Death, death, it’s all death

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