Karen Schubert: “Everything Stuck to Her Skin”: Considerations of Gender in the Poetry of Nin Andrews


The poetry of Nin Andrews is a multi-faceted exploration of the experience of being female. Andrews writes as an insider; that is, she writes through the female body, through the persona of a girl evaluating cultural messages, and through a woman in relationship as daughter, mother, lover, wife. In The Book of Orgasms, she gives a playful voice to various aspects of female sexuality. Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane  interrogates the socialization of girls. Her newest book Southern Comfort is an autobiographical series of poems that examines her parents’ marriage and sexuality, the indoctrination girls endured at her Catholic school in Virginia, and the humorous and didactic stories her mother told Nin and her sisters about their emerging womanhood. Andrews works from the local to the global, grounding her stories in specificity yet connecting with broader female themes of relationship, work, humor and meaning. She also works from the global to the local, painting broad strokes and then drawing the reader in – Don’t you see yourself here? Her work is engaging, tough, intimate, tender, devastating, generous, forgiving, and laugh-out-loud funny.

Sex is a recurring theme in Andrews’ poems. Women in particular have a complicated relationship with sex. As girls they are warned away from the dangers. In “Bathing in Your Brother’s Bathwater,” Catholic middle school teacher Miss De Angelo instructs her adolescent girls never to use the same bath water as their teenage brothers. “Even if he doesn’t touch himself,/the water does./And it only takes one./One fast moving whip-tailed sperm./And you know how easy it is to catch a cold,/how quickly that little virus races clear through you./And once that happens,/no one will believe you’re any Virgin Mary,/no matter what you say” (Southern Comfort 9). This kind of indoctrination, however scientifically challenged, lays the groundwork for the female push-pull, attract-repel to sexuality and the sexual experience.

As Andrews girls grow older, they become aware of their longing, their power and their limitations. They also come to understand their relationship with objectification. The poem “Pants” is a metonymical exploration of the idealized female body:

Outside the apartment building a pair of women’s pants are walking away. They are slender pants, carefully tailored pants, sleek black velvet pants, subtle and suggestive pants, pants that are the envy of women whose calves can’t possibly enter such tiny, delicate leg holes, pants that speak of a sylph-like woman, an airy woman, barely a size five, possibly a model or a ballerina who no longer walks on earth while men stare after her hopelessly, while other women, ordinary women, watch and weep and the pants, those sensuous pants, simply sigh. (29 Orgasms)

The breathless hypotaxis feeds a light-headed illogic. The sexual ideal cannot be reached by women or men. Despite being warned about sex in their youth, women long to be desired, but now instead of being restricted by others, they conjure up the prohibitive voices in their own minds. Only the slenderest fraction of women are models or ballerinas, yet in this poem, all women who are not “watch and weep” over their perceived loss of perfection. Men who presumably have or could have access to other, less narrowly defined women also pine. Interestingly, the pants, who “simply sigh,” are unhappy too, perhaps because they are empty and walking away, since so few women fit into them. Or perhaps they realize the absurdity of the system – everyone wants to desire and be desired, yet  our self-imposed category of desirability is stupidly restrictive. It is worth noting that these are women’s pants, and not men’s pants, yet by narrowly focusing on one body type, competing men run up against the same loneliness, only on the flip side.

Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane interrogates the gender role instruction kids grew up with in the 50s and 60s. The pre-Seuss Dick and Jane readers taught schoolchildren much more than reading – it was Dick who played sports and ran with Spot the dog and rescued Puff the kitten. Jane stood by in her blue ruffled dress making monosyllabic exclamations. In Andrews’ re-examination, contemporary gender role values are imposed on the connotated world of white, middle class ‘50s suburbia. In one poem, a young girl named Stephanie writes to Jane, asking why she lets Dick win every single race. “Does he ever come in second, she asked. Didn’t Stephanie know? Jane’s job was to clap so Dick could run fast, to be silly so that Dick could laugh, to cry so Dick could comfort her, to scream oh no, so that Dick could save the day or Puff, the kitten” (23). In the end, however, Jane could not resist the radical feminist belief that women, too, should strive for self-actualization. In the poem “Fantasy Jane” she looks back on her life,

Jane never knew how it happened. Her life, her love, her dreams… What were they? Had she always been just a fantasy, a fantasy of Dick’s? But of which Dick? Was that the question of her life? Her life of so many Dicks. Her father was a Dick, her brother was a Dick, her neighbor and her neighbor’s neighbor and of course her husband, too. (19)

Gender roles are further explored as well as complicated in Andrews’ most autobiographical collection Southern Comfort. The mother wears the pants in this household. After the father spills $105-an-ounce Christian Dior Diorissimo perfume on his favorite suit, he complains to everyone that “he couldn’t comprehend how a sane soul could live with a woman whose bathroom is nothing but a maze of perfumes, powders, lotions, elixirs, pills, douches, palliatives, and God only knows what all else.” (64) He doesn’t get the last word, however. As Andrews observes,

My mother had an instinct for retaliation. She began to inquire of guests at cocktail parties just why it is a man can’t learn to control his aim. After twelve years of marriage, not a morning had passed, she explained, when she had not had to Lysol and wipe up at least one splash from the rim of her toilet bowl or floor… She even began to wonder why some sort of disposable funnel had not been invented by Procter & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson, which could be attached to a penis, perhaps with a rubber band or Velcro, and made to conduct the flow neatly into a toilet bowl without mishap. (64)

In the end, a sign goes up on the door: Women Only. She concludes, “In a house of many daughters, the message was clear. My father was not welcome” (64). In both poems, “The Fight” and “Fantasy Jane,” the penis becomes something of a joke, thereby subverting traditional male power. Word play softens the blow, and there is no blood – this time – but it is a theme that weaves in and out of the poems.

Andrews’ mother and father continue to compete, contradict and generally argue their way through the book, and their daughters sometimes have to choose which parent to align with – the northern, fact-stickler mother or the southern, mythmaking father; but in the end, Andrews uses humor and nostalgia to reveal the nature of her relationship to them. In the title poem, which takes place when the mother is away, Andrews and her father stay up late sipping whiskey drinks, even though Andrews is still a small girl. He sits on the couch and reads, and she lies belly-down looking at picture books she’d read “a thousand times,” and pretends that was all there was, “the two of us alone, together, on a summer night” (66).

Things don’t always work out so neatly, though. The collections Why They Grow Wings and Sleeping With Houdini give voice to women who would specialize in flight or other disappearing acts. They have nightmares of drowning or being eaten inside out by tigers. They have suicidal urges and are saved, perhaps by electro-shock, or are not saved. They are seduced away from everything they know, or they hurl themselves at unnoticing strangers. They are left by lovers and fathers. “The Kiss” is about the obsession that follows a break-up. The speaker begins, “At first I thought it would be simple to forget.” But it doesn’t work that way. “Days passed, so many of them, and in each one I saw you again and called your name like a chant, a song, a prayer. Soon I became so used to you, leaving your trace in my mind, like a shadow on the sea, a sea of shadows. Only the birds kept watching, lifting me each morning out of my darkness.” The poem continues to chronicle spiraling despair:

How I envied you, then, and all men like you, who float like milkweed in the wind, wandering through random cities, cities full of houses, houses full of rooms, rooms bleeding light in the darkness, the scope of their thoughtlessness extending infinitely outwards in a shimmering, an envelope of light, before vanishing forever.” (42)

In this poem it is he who seems to disappear, slipped from his underwater chains like Houdini. But that’s the illusion: it’s really she who has vanished, since her retreat into depressive sleeplessness prevents her from being a participant in her own life. Presumably, in the world, the actual world that Andrews inhabits, there are thoughtless women who float like milkweed in wind, but in this poem it is the woman who is left behind collapsing.

Sometimes the loneliness kicks in before anything else can happen. In the poem “Adolescence,” a girl finds her body is changing into something undesirable. Andrews uses the language and imagery of fairy tales (castle at the bottom of the sea), laced with contemporary details (blue jeans and Band-aids).

The winter her body no longer fit, walking felt like swimming in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Everything stuck to her skin: gum wrappers, Band–aids, leaves. How she envied the other girls, especially the kind who turned into birds. They were the ones boys hand–tamed, training them to eat crumbs from their open palms or to sing on cue. What she would have done for a red crest and a sharp beak, for a little square of blue sky to enter her like wings. But it was her role to sink so the others could rise, hers to sleep so the others could dance. If only her legs weren’t too sodden to lift, if only her buttons would unfasten in the water she kept swimming through, and she could extract from the shadow of her breasts a soul as soft as a silk brassiere, beautiful and useless, like a castle at the bottom of the sea. (Why They Grow Wings 23)

This young woman grieves much as the women weeping over the tiny velvet pants. They seem, either temporarily or permanently, to lack the ability to either present themselves as desirable despite their failure to match up with some ideal, or to say to hell with desirability: I’m doing something else with my life. In this way, Andrews shows us that the myth itself is failing women. She is serving in the role of Stephanie, asking if Dick doesn’t ever come in second?

Through humor, exposing taboo, and kicking sacred cows, Andrews shows us the folly of some of our traditional gender assumptions and their limitations for both men and women, with a particular sensitivity to women. She notes in an interview with MiPoesias Magazine that gender bias even slips into the way we read her work. I will give her the last word: “One question I am so often asked is, how can I write like that, meaning how can I write about sex. Don’t I worry that my parents will see? My first answer is no. Let’s face it. Few poets have high visibility. And if that’s ever a problem, then congratulations. And my second answer is, would you be asking me that same question if I were male?”

Works Cited

Andrews, Nin. The Book of Orgasms. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2000.

— . Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane. Washington DC: Web del Sol Association, 2005.

— . Sleeping with Houdini. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions Ltd., 2008.

— .  Southern Comfort. Glen Rock, New Jersey : Cavankerry, 2009.

— . Why They Grow Wings Berkeley, California: Silverfish Review Press, 2001.

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Karen Schubert’s poems appear or are forthcoming in MUSE, Jenny, Penguin Review, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Redactions and othersHer chapbooks are Bring Down the Sky (Kattywompus, forthcoming) and The Geography of Lost Houses (Pudding House, 2008). Nominated for 2011 Best of the Web, she teaches writing at Youngstown State University.

Primal Matter: Nadine Dalton Speidel on Snaketown by Kathleen Wakefield


Snaketown, Kathleen Wakefield, Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Modern religion has done us a great disservice in that, over the years, the mythic components of belief have been eroded. We forget that we are connected to nature in a very primal manner; we forget that which is bigger than ourselves; we forget the one who conjures all, and we forget and diminish the great battle. Wakefield digs deep to resuscitate ancient myth in all of its complexities, a portrayal of good and evil which refuses to be watered down. Snaketown is a meditation on symbol. It is the world thrown into 180 degree contrasts so that the mind’s eye can see these polar opposites engaged in a dance across the frightfully beautiful landscape Wakefield creates. Snaketown is a “… ghost world where clouds go in and out of your doors with white beards and eyes.” (24) Yet, its is also a very real world, one that the reader can identify, where “…The river flowed softly, although there were rain clouds in the distance over the red mesas, over the Little Colorado River, Sacred Mountain, Canyon de Chelly…” (4) Have we traveled here? It is familiar, and yet we pause to reconsider.

Wakefield is a master of metaphor as she conjures setting for an allegory/parable in which the story of an insular family centers around the events and actions of two main characters on a Sunday afternoon. Orin, whose name means pine tree in Hebrew, pale green in Celtic, and refers to a saint in Catholicism, grows up in the land of pinyon pines. This type of pine tree needs a taproot as well as a spread of lateral roots in order to thrive, and the scruffy short trees are usually found standing singly in dry rocky soil. Wakefield shows us that Orin never developed a “taproot”, leaving him exposed to malady. He has a foot deformity rendering him physically weak and ungrounded. But, he also has a lack of spiritual roots, probably created by an absence of parental love, and we see him trying to stand in his own “rocky soil” as best he can. In spite of family, he stands alone. Or does he? Caytas (a bastardization of the Latin cariats, perhaps? This reviewer is uncertain, but knows that no word is wasted here) is a beautiful sprite of a girl who is usually alone and looking for something smaller than herself (20) After capturing and portraying with words a sepia photograph defining the boundaries of the family and working inward to the glint of copper in one member’s eyes (18), the author draws the reader out to see what happens when evil in the form of a voice, almost a whisper “…jumped in on all fours, and come sitting at his (Orin’s) bed, telling him it had been waiting a long time.” (38) Orin fights the great battle, but succumbs to evil, as it slithers down into his very soul.

The story unfolds as a snake writhing upon itself, a snake eating its own tail. That old friend who tempted Eve, who sheltered the Buddha as he sat beneath the Bodhi tree, who brings vision to the Mayans, who carryies the planets on his hood as he sings praise to Vishnu, who is displayed on the caduceus, is represented (re-presented) here in all of his ancient and splendid forms. Does the reader recognize them? “You drop down into Snaketown as if you had been in one existence, and suddenly fall into another, as if Snaketown did not exist without someone willing it, an imagination either yours or someone else’s, a wearied vision someone had that included you.” (33) Is the reader dreaming Snaketown? Is the author dreaming the reader into the landscape? What is the reader’s relationship to these characters? “In nature…the saguaro cactus needs a ‘nurse’ tree on which to establish its existence…” (87) “…the host tree becomes weak and the saguaro becomes strong… Orin…would not stand up for himself, waiting always for someone else…to stand up for him… he grew stronger in their presence … without them he may not have survived.” (99) With the deftness of Faulker or Steinbeck, Wakefield throws us right into the middle of the ancient battle between good and evil and makes us acknowledge our symbiotic part in all of this, as evils’ very presence wriggles up beside us. This is old-time religion at its best, ancients stories retold brilliantly.

In the Beginning There Was Mathias Svalina: Dennis Etzel Jr. on Mathias Svalina’s Destruction Myth


Destruction Myth, Mathias Svalina, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2009

The Cleveland State University Poetry Center has something special going on in its New Poetry Series. I was surprised at the list of wonderful poets on their website, and met a few new poets there. As a reader of Octopus, one poet I came across was familiar to me: Mathias Svalina. His book was well worth the cover price, as Destruction Myth is a journey of how narrative is constructed via mythmaking.

There are 44 poems titled “Creation Myth” followed by a seven-part “Destruction Myth,” and “In the beginning” is the first three words in many of the poems. Destruction Myth also explores the possibilities of different views into our world. For example, the first poem covers a universe around Larry Bird: “In the beginning everyone looked like Larry Bird / but everyone did not have the name Larry Bird / & this was confusing.” I found myself chuckling while drawn in to what could be absurd, yet kept me hungry for another poem.

The best poems tie in what a reader might see as “world-creating” to reconnect the voice to the audience, like in the sixth “Creation Myth,” where “In the beginning there were only streets.” The streets that made everything, streets that “considered themselves houses,” a “street that looked like you / when you were eight years old” all vanish, because there is no Department of Transportation after all. This is the explanation for why cars suddenly jerk away, running over the ghost of a street and “is crying out / the only way it knows how”:

Your car does not love you. Your car knows
what it is to be a car & that cars belong
to the streets. Just as every bird
belongs to the bird feeder. Just as lead
belongs to the pencil. That’s how I felt
when I was eight years old
& my home broke apart.
Each page has a surprise, making reading a pleasure.

This might be what is so appealing about this collection—how the reader “has fun” with these poems, but discovers how these differently created worlds are our world. Here are a few examples of opening lines:

In the beginning everyone wanted to fight to the death. This made shopping difficult & also lovemaking & most everything else.
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The world began with the beat of a drum. / The drummer was in a metal band / so he was drumming really fast / & things started changing rapidly.
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In the beginning there was a gun. / Before that the world / was only gunpowder & steel.

Svalina takes the best of mythmaking and poetry with our culture and humanity to place it in front of us in the guise of humor. That is what makes this collection wonderful, including the final poem “Destruction Myth,” and how it flips the current attitudes of the world over and makes pancakes out of them: “Everyone saw the end coming / & threw a big party / with barbecued sausages / & moon bounces.” If you do not rush out and order this book, you won’t get to see how things will end. Seriously, this is an amazing first book that deserves more recognition.

Purchase Destruction Myth

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Dennis Etzel Jr. is a candidate for an MFA in creative writing from The University of Kansas. He lives in Topeka, Kansas.

CIRCULAR ARGUMENT: Shiaw-Tian Liaw on Allison Benis White’s Self-Portrait with Crayon


WHITE

Self-Portrait with Crayon, Allison Benis White, Cleveland State University Poetry Center

1. Where the legs should be

Reading White’s first collection of poems, I imagine a sketch of superimposed circles, each circle certainly a circle, but never an exact replicate of the circles previously drawn. Though the larger shape of the book is clear –meditations, through Degas’ art, on the trauma of abandonment by the mother – each poem offers its own distinct circle, its own insufficient but necessary angle into the author’s experiences of her mother’s absence.

The first poem sketches the situation that begins almost playfully but quickly reveals the underlying menace (“From Degas’ Sketchbook”):

The hidden are alone too. I crouched in the closet, between my mother’s skirts and shoes, where the legs should be…People lose their minds and leave in the middle of cooking salmon. I will tell you something quietly: we tried to send her a birthday card, but it was returned, wrong address.

The poems in this collection function as a stand-in for where the mother should have been, stating that “most desire is the opposite of what we have and identical to lack” (Interior or The Rape). Taking Degas’ artwork as a lens in order to “look two ways at once” (The Bellelli Family (detail)), White’s images reverberate and compile in dream logic, never straying far from the artwork. A strand of thought is quickly, and necessarily returned to the artwork and meditation, bringing back with it surprises and new insights.

2. Being touched lightly on the shoulder forever

Even on the first reading, apparent is White’s insistence on the circular. She is obsessed with words like circles, reversed, turning, and mirror. Even the title – self-portrait – refer to a kind of circle, the loop of visions and expressions, seeing and sketching, during which interpretations occur. This motion is most poignant for me in “Seated Dancer, Head in Hands,” where a hand, and its act of touching, stand as the beginning of an extended simile of which White cautions midway:

More than anything, it is turning around to look for what is lost that creates rotation. Such as being touched lightly on the shoulder forever.

Each moment is a completed circle, concrete but ephemeral, and therefore demands that White draw another one. In “Waiting,”

But I’m afraid of black water and the way women ignore each other at restaurant counters (one sips her coffee while the other draws circles on a paper napkin). When a child throws a stone into a lake, God is pleased, and opens in rings, then fades to prompt the child to throw again.

This collection of prose poem composed of fragments and many short sentences insists on a meditative pace without losing its momentum in its circular movements. It is what happens between full stops and the next word that resembles a deep breath as if in preparation for what has to be said next. At the end of “Absinthe” White negotiates her mother’s abandonment without apologies or sentimental pleas for pity:

Sitting on the sidewalk near a ladder, when asked where my mother was, I said she’s dead. Because it was cleaner. Like a ring of lace around her neck, sugar cubes, or hot glass pipe. Because it was worse than the truth. Than anything anyone could ever do to me. Which means I was mine. Like exhaustion from desire, the embrace was white blond.

3. Because I cannot hurt her enough to grow old

The organization of the book in four parts enacts its own kind of cycle. White begins in the first section with an exploration of memory. She seeks in the unreliability of one’s memory the permission for her grieving (Dancers in Blue) –

Their dance is rehearsed before mirrors until grief is perfected.

while keeping constant vigilance of the limits of memory (Dancers with Green Skirts) –

Just as, when one mirror is held up to another, the reflection cannot stop and burrows a tunnel of reflections. It will be difficult to breathe.

The second section, in response, takes the posture of various embraces, whether to prevent forgetting (Interior or The Rape) –

I will not let you sleep follows the pattern of most affection…The circular crease the rubberband leaves in my hair when I take it down every night cannot be brushed out and wholly is the fear of being forgotten.

or as preparation for action (Torso of a Woman) –

But if you think about the hundreds of possible outcomes, it sounds like a truck crashing through the roof. Listening awake, I will hold my body as still as possible. Doing nothing is an action. Prayer is an action.

While the pronouns in the first two sections are distinct and clear in their referent, they are introduced in the third section as muddled, separated at times and conflated at others. In “La Bouderie” describing the relationship between the speaker and her father:

A boy whose father leaves is called the man of the house. Yet what happens to a girl is not the woman but we … Without her is the oldest meaning of us; my father holds my hand when we walk to the store.

It is as if the trauma requires that the speaker and the addressed, who is often the self, be disparate in order to pounce on the subject of the poems. In “Horse with Lowered Head” where the self and the “you”, as self-address, splits and conflates the speaker reveals the insistence of her mother’s absence in her life:

To place your fingers on her back is natural…How careful we must be that she does not choke…It was best to oscillate back and forth until you tipped over slowly…Because I cannot hurt her enough to grow old. Surely we have tipped over by now.

The coda is the calmest of the four, which moves towards resolution without losing the dream magic of the collection. It is as if White is waking slowly, following the thread of a dream to a place of waking. There is healing (The Ironer) –

Her arms flush above the patience of steam and the collar heals visibly.

and firm conviction that what has stood in place of her mother is only as such:

Back to your own mind and the blank look of the curtain half-lowered and re velvet…And when she is gone, only the backs of their heads who stand and applaud into the absence of movement. Nothing else will ever happen. (Curtainfall)

And across the room, white roses climb the wallpaper. And a portrait of a woman in a red dress, who sat down in a red chair, who held very still. (Melancholy)

The ferocity of the circles, the loops of infinite reflections, sketches a deep-breathed exploration of the subject matter. It seems fitting to end with another image of the kind of transposition White enacts in her poems. From “Self-Portrait–Red Chalk on Laid Paper”:

Periodically pressed to the cut and pulled back to check, the blood on the towel widened, like paper folded in half over paint and opened, as if to say the rest is fascination.

Earning TRUST: Lori A. May on Liz Waldner’s Trust


trust

Trust, Liz Waldner, Cleveland State University Poetry Center

I hate to judge a book by its cover, but something about the fantastic imagery of Liz Waldner’s Trust told me I was in for something unique, quirky, and breathtaking. The cover told the truth. Waldner’s poetic form and lyricism center on the metaphysical, the insane, and the awkwardly familiar. Trust is Waldner’s seventh collection of poems and is also the 2008 winner of The Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Competition.

Waldner’s work searches for truth, the kind “We hope to see through (to) / Always,” as announced in her opening poem “Truth, Beauty, Tree.” It is this search for honesty and her uncovering of the reason behind it all that Waldner shakes up our world and lets us know what lies behind its protected walls. Life is not always pretty, nor should it be.

Through this journey of discovery, we are lured into conversations with the living, though often not human, beasts of the world. Such is the case with “Novice,” in which we find the speaker conversing with the natural landscape,

The baby maples hold out their hands:
“As you can see, there is nothing to see that you cannot see.”

I forgive them. I only wish that I were so certain.

The ant has no back. He is three beads.
Strung on an impetus that means “Everything is necessary.”

He means ‘for me’ where “me” means “him.” I believe him.

What Waldner paints with this dialogue is an understanding of naivety and a desire for forgiveness of such newness amongst the earth. The narrator here is open to learning, open to discovery, and it is with such interactions there is opportunity to understand the role of the self. In Waldner’s poetic dialogues, naivety is not a fault; it is a platform for learning.

Indeed, Waldner aims to embrace the novelty of youth and naivety through presentations of the narrator amidst the world, the earth, discovering qualities of life and its cycles while the rest of society goes on with everyday business. In “Coming Through, It Got Nice,” a perplexing glimpse of changing seasons catches the narrator in a time warp of inexplicable, but beautiful, metamorphoses:

I thought trees’ leaves went red and then Fall.
But here’s wine-red and big in Spring.
And the red-gold sun in them, not on.
Above me in one, one sucked the sky
As if it were teeth, its teeth.
No wonder I was nervous standing there,
The whole world and me watching
Me not know ought to do anymore.

As one reads Trust, it is hard not to imagine Alice walking through Wonderland. Despite the complexity of Waldner’s visions, her work presents a childlike sense of discovery. During many of the fantastic dialogues shared between the narrator and earth-creatures, it’s half-expectant to come across an existential game of question and answer that goes something like this: “Why” “Because it is so.”

Through unearthly imagery and sparse words, Waldner paints a human existence unconcerned with conformity. Her narrator is often on the outside, marginalized, wondering what perplexities are buried on the inside, though only so curious as to uncover a truth which seems so obvious in her narrator’s journey before abandoning any attempt to immerse herself further.

But if all this causes the reader to wonder how the work can be interpreted and related to one’s own life experience, there is no need for concern. Waldner surprises with her humor and slices of life that can touch even the most cubicle-oriented person. The experience of “In Some Respects Invisible, She Greets the Poet,” Waldner provides wisdom that’s applicable to anyone in life: “You have to know a body first not to recognize her later.” Again, such painted worlds create a disconnect between the known beings and unknown beings and place the narrator in a quest to find truth, free from judgment, and free from masks.

Too, Waldner explores the meaning of place and of belonging, and of home. In “Taking the Air,” the narrator reflects on life after a car crash and the rediscovery of what constitutes normalcy,

I could sometimes stand to slow down
Sometimes get out in a strange small town
And walk through its evening air

To a house waiting
For me to find it
My toothbrush already waiting in it
My shoes at the foot of a me-shaped bed
And a curtained window
Slightly ajar.

In this, Waldner asks the question: When you no longer recognize your life, how can you recognize yourself? Such prodding questions and introspections of the human experience are open for debate; amidst the earthling creatures and mystical experiences, Waldner’s narration always places the question and threats of humanity back into the hands of the human. In the end, as in the opening of “Forked Song,” the reader will nod along as the narrator says with conviction, “I am the one who is here,” and later, “The world fits me.”

Whether comedic or metaphysical, fantastic or realistic, Waldner seeks out a superior level of truth in Trust. As in the poem “With the Tongues of Angels” we read, “Perspective won’t do,” Waldner encourages an inquisition and the digging deeper of reality. Her narration questions face value and seeks to enliven the earth’s surface in a quest for discovering a place for humanity. Trust offers escapism amidst reality, and realism amidst the fantastic.