Black Lawrence Press, 2013
available @ Black Lawrence Press
Kristy Bowen’s poems unfold like a fairy tale pop-up book; open like a cabinet of wonders in which girl is both cabinet and wonder; flame and spark into the night air where we read by that light. In a collection so rich in image— milk and angels and vinegar, the trap door and the hemline, bees and a line of low clouds—I’m struck even more by those seemingly small words of relationship—the prepositions—behind, against, inside, beneath beneath beneath. These poems arise from the “rubied dark” where the Louises and Livvies and Coras live, frightened and yet defiant, and return there, with us in tow.
—Mary Ann Samyn
The poems in Kristy Bowen’s brilliantly musical Girl Show capture the details of domestic life gone delicately, mysteriously wrong: “My salt shakers shaped like ducks. My ducks shaped like / killers.” In this map of bruised doors and broken windows, house after house reveals burnt staircases and ghostly inhabitants. The girls displayed in these illuminated rooms “speak softly while night … knocks us out, / knocks us up.” These gorgeous lyrics document dangerous histories, the marginalia that matters most. Bowen’s dreamy, eerie poems create a subversively gothic landscape: “mile after mile of busted / lunchboxes glinting in the sun.”
from girl show:
The hands are just for show, you see. Buttoning and unbuttoning dresses.
Fingering the gears of the tiny pink booth. Today, I rearrange the letters
of our names. Hide you beneath the trap door. Call you daughter. Call you
heretic. Cast candles in the shape of girls, soap in the shape of horses. All
of them speaking at once, soft caressing the inside of their vowels.
I cut off your hair lest they mistake you for a harlot. Mistake you for
a river full of ships. Slip their fingers beneath the black glove to thumb
the bones of your wrist. The dark inside like a cabinet, or a girl's mouth.
I cut off your arms and call you monster. Every table uneven. My cakes in the
shape of martyrs, mothers.