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Goat in the Snow
by Emily Pettit
Birds LLC, $15 (paper)
“You are familiar with the rules, are you not?” asks the speaker of “(Radio Silence),” which opens the second section of Emily Pettit’s radiant debut. “When I bring you to beautiful places you must / forgive me for bringing you to beautiful places.” And, the thing of it is, she means it. More than half of the book’s thirty-nine pieces belong to a series of “How To” poems, including “How to Be Responsible” and “How to Stop Laughing When You Laugh at Inappropriate Times,” lending the book a sense of obsessive yet playful instructiveness. In short, these are the rules: in the world of this book, anything can happen, and everything that happens feels inevitable—“Walking towards the lit capital dome / the cross-street we cross reads, Dodge Street, / so we dodge.” “What do you call a field of black telephones ringing?” Pettit’s speaker asks. “A problem?” We might answer “no,” but it wouldn’t matter. The answer isn’t the point. Goat in the Snow purports to teach us how to navigate a world by way of a kind of rational thinking but knows that this rationality will, inevitably, fail us. And, in its failing, we will find something wiser and new. “There’s your voice. There are some / well given instructions. When it comes to / performing some of the most difficult / and laborious operations of abstract thought, / I fail. Hey person, I love you! I kick at rocks.” We should all be so lucky—and we will. We just need to open up to Pettit’s precedent, follow her shining example.
Sasha Fletcher is author of the novella When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds and two chapbooks of poetry.
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