We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
Here is a voice firmly situated, all the while intent on disturbing its situation. Charisma is not a concern. Maud Poole’s intent is not to seduce. As delicious as such an approach might be (and often is), Poole regards her reader with levity. Oddly enough, this lends the sense that her utterances (which are confessional to an extraordinary degree, yet have little in common with those sticky manipulations we’ve grown accustomed to understanding as confessional) come at a real cost to her psyche. Poetry is, for Poole, an act of gutting the soul. The speaker conducts the process of giving in/up, by which I mean she no longer engages in the falsehood of disguising her intelligence. In Poole’s work, everything really is broken, and, as she concludes, “you can’t put it back together.” This refusal to deny the lies we too often live by, that narcotic deemed love we cannot but begin to twitch away from, is a cause for celebration. I chortle on reading her retort: “when you die, I’ll sit on your grave and eat the whole cake without blowing out the candles.” I like to picture the speaker here, childish-wise, in scuffed-up knee-socks, consuming sugar and fire in one greedy gulp.
Poetry is the means by which Poole unlearns behaviors women have been conditioned to replicate. Working up the gumption to “walk into a bar and blow the top off [the] raw egg,” an emblem of feminine frailty, is startling enough to make the speaker exclaim: “Freedom is a pretty strange thing!”
Poole’s speaker has much in common with the urban wildlife she regards with revulsion in “I Stepped on a Rat.” Her subject is how she has managed not only to survive, but adapt. Tasting of highway pile-up peril—the clenched jaw, the metallic dread—Poole’s poems screech as if continually coming to an abrupt halt. One wonders if the speaker is the victim of a hit-and-run, or if she is speeding away from the scene. We know that she has “been a good girl most of [her] life”—not all of it. Not by a long stretch.
Santa Maria’s Kiss
Remember Maiden’s Tower stuck like a thumb
in the blue Bosporus where one daddy locked
his daughter to keep her virginity intact?
Then came the asp in the plum basket’s bottom.
I’ve been a good girl most of my life, and if you
believe that you never could have been my father.
Be a lawyer, he said, think like that asp. I told him
I was too busy mastering the art of grieving:
I planned to skip over argument; like loving,
it becomes debilitating by the second point.
I never look my best after losing sleep
and who wants a chick who can’t keep her slip
from hanging below her hem? The trick is hiding
technique up your sleeve, holding back like a rat.
Flashy, feminine, legal to conceal, quick to pop in and out of a handbag. Think of accessorizing with Bottega Veneta’s stunning new spring line, prime choice: bright orange woven goat shoulder bag. Every lady needs to pack a pistol.
Taurus 738 TCP
Make way for the lightest Compact ever. Low-profile fixed sites, steel in a polymer frame, hammer fired, weight: only 10.5 ounces. Nice little pocket gun. Ask for pink. Visit gunblast.com to watch the pigtailed sharpshooter’s demo (scenic background, as he target practices in an aspen grove under his bluebird-house, while the bird-babies hatch, and momma goes frantic at the noise.)
Entry level model. $352.
.380 Ruger. LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol), First True Pocket Auto
Nicknamed Miss Elsie Pea, the infamous raspberry “piece” Arizona’s state senator Lori Klein, age 57, mother of three, pointed, it’s always loaded, I pack heat, at the Republic newspaper reporter during an interview at her swearing in ceremony, red dot on his chest, laser sight of the Ruger. Squarely aimed at the “concealed carry” market, having a lightweight glass-filled nylon frame, steel slide, weighs in at just 9.42 ounces. Comes with one magazine and a zippered soft case. Visitors to the Senate Chambers are prohibited from bearing firearms, but lawmakers are not—one more perk for lawyers. However, guns are legal on college campuses, which guarantee opportunities for carrying a Ruger in Arizona. (It also helps if you’re insane, as 20 states recently passed measures to have rights to own guns restored.) The LG-389 Crimson Trace LaserGrip, sight (“red dot” referred to above). With instinctive activation, add-on at $299.
Charter Arms Cougar Undercover Lite
Eight-groove button rifled barrel seals gasses better, less bullet deformation resulting in higher velocities. Ergonomically designed trigger, does not pinch the shooter’s finger, although better to avoid wearing a ring. Recoil-friendly, rubber grip. 12 ounces. Made to complete your self-defense wardrobe, which is best acquired at Prada: choose the nutria-trimmed (guilt-free fur, as the critter is being exterminated in Louisiana bayous, with about 400,000 killed by state-supported bounty hunters just last year) hooded jacket, zippers at the wrist, python top-handle bag.
This blowback automatic, official weapon favored by Octopussy and her cult of (faux-cock slinging) aggressors was outlawed in U.S. after political assassinations, as it was deemed too concealable. Now, the laws (and Customs) more lenient, grant import permits, which encourages shopping around while on your world tour, but go no further: 6.1 inches long, extended beaver tail, this gem fits in the Judith Leiber navy Karung Snake Skin shoulder bag, although a bit weighty at 22.4 ounces. Perfect for abbreviated summer clothing. Works well for knocking over your rival’s champagne glass, with a slight flick of your hip in her direction.
V. Sig Sauer P226 9 mm
Fuchsia and black effects. Scallop cuts in rails relieve stress. Pinned in breechblock. Widely used by specialist units, including Navy SEALS, but one of the best magazine catches, provided your thumb is long enough. Created by gun customizer, “TJ” in Culver City, California. Holds 20 rounds. Marries well with Chanel’s blue-glacier, sequin studded evening dress, a bold accent of unexpected color.
VI. Ruger Mark II Competition Target. 22
Built as a gift for a country-music superstar (who asks to remain nameless). Rimfire semi-automatic, blowback. A couple of tablespoons of water can be poured into the suppressor for extra quiet operation. One-of-a-kind. She requested roses on the barrel, red and flush open. You’ve got to love her.
You can’t put a price on this baby.
The Trouble with Boundaries
When you get sick they plug you into the wall,
and the fearless stay to watch it happen although
everyone wants to die at home. You can break
something so bad, you can’t put it back together,
so don’t go dropping the trip wire, or you’ll blow
up the levee. I keep drawing my face with coal
on every bare surface. The pot boils when I enter
the kitchen and dead fish float upstream. My blood
drinks itself; that’s why you need to know how
to swim or to walk into a bar and blow the top
off a raw egg. Go ahead, drown the puppies, put up
that broken umbrella, and when you die, I’ll sit
on your grave and eat the whole birthday cake
without blowing out the candles. Daddy wears
a dress and a bracelet, while the fabric of the universe
unravels. Every animal’s made up of hot meat,
and every creature talks each to each, usually in code:
I’m hungry, or I need to poop, or time to jump
on you, Baby. When you don’t push, nothing happens.
Freedom is a pretty strange thing! To be so young
and already blind. If things were normal they’d feel
off kilter—being honest would smack like a lie.
I Stepped on a Rat
Squatting in the middle of the wet sidewalk,
it was a wounded thing,
unmoving, confused, in pain.
I cried out, my squeak involuntary.
Not that the injured lump of fur was so large,
or even threating in its still distress.
It was the instantly recognizable rat-ness of the creature
and my conditioning.
If it had been a cat or a gull,
I would have come to its rescue, picked it up,
held it, taken it to a veterinary, but in my armor,
of long-time prejudice against rats no matter their affliction,
I walked fast in disgust, cleaning my sole on the hard concrete,
and now I fear myself.
Notes on the Poems: “The Trouble with Boundaries” works off the film Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), directed by Benh Zeitlin.
“Purse Pistol” is written in response to “Purse Pistols, Nine of a Kind,” Chee Pearlman, The New York Times, March 20, 2011; Web sites devoted to the named pistols; and “Lawmakers, Armed and Dangerous,” Frank Bruni, The New York Times, July 17, 2011.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
In her new book, Danish poet Olga Ravn writes with open love, pity, and compassion for her strange yet familiar creations.
Draconian individual punishment distracts from systemic change and reinforces the cruelest and most racist system of incarceration on the planet.
Our well-being depends on a better understanding of how the logic of labor has twisted our relationship with pleasure.