12.5 review of Elizabeth Schmuhl’s Premonitions

1 This book of poems reads like something mythological. Filled with hot summer evenings, swollen rivers and lust.

2 Pretty early on you realize what you are dealing with:

It is night. I drink red wine and become pregnant with

an old lover’s baby. I dance, knife in hand, and at my

movement’s climax, stab my belly. I feel no pain. Instead

I feel ecstatic.

Upstairs, I’m in bed with the lights off. Smoking in the center of

my dirty dress. I am my dirty dress.

 I listen to the coyotes howl on the distant tracks. They are calling

to far off trains. Come. An ancestor approaches and kisses my ear,

strokes my hair. Puts my cigarette out. (pg. 15)

3 This poetry is very much of the earth. It’s got dirt under its fingernails. The narrator and the landscape at times seem to meld into one.

4 If this book were a dance it might look like this.

5 He comes to see me.

In the raspberry patch he says, I would like to eat your hair.

I laugh.

Can I cut some? he asks.

I hold up a lock from the front. I should have held up one from the back

because for months, I will look at myself in the mirror and always

notice first the absent hair. In the future, every time I look in the mirror,

before I see me, I’ll see him first.

He takes out a knife and moves it back and forth.

Smells like fall, he says.

He puts my hair into his jacket pocket.

What if she finds it? I ask.

She won’t.

He cups my face with his hands and kisses me.

I feel softer than I’ve felt for months, a feeling I’m a little uncomfortable with.

Overhead: birds. (pg. 20)

6 Time is smudged and personhood uncertain. There are generations of ghosts here and I’m not even certain the narrator exists.

7 The action for these poems takes place at an orchard (or are there several transposed over one another like transparencies?).

8 Self-harm and an unsettling number of knives also make an appearance.

9 I am lying in the apple orchard again

waiting to turn invisible. I’ve been here for hours.

To be the clouds crawling through the blue sky

or the mice running in damp tunnels.

Here my body is heavy with salt.

I try to leave but it’s impossible. My flesh reddening,

my freckles mapping where I begin, where I’ll end. (pg. 37)

10 Fans of Southern Gothic should take a chance on this most midwestern of tales.

11 The multi-talented Ms. Schmuhl is also a dancer.

12 Find out more about Elizabeth at her website.

12.5 Buy

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