Flinch of Song by Jennifer Militello
Reviewed by Christina Cook
Flinch of Song
Perfect binding, 60 pages
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. . . Look half at me, half at
the long grass color the sky is beginning to have,beauty’s poisonous reptile sleeping in your hand.
If I wear a gemstone, make its thousands laugh.
Don’t think. You must reshape me as the fabricsgrow weak. Otherwise, I come out colorless
and afraid. Add to me a long stretch of wetlands
and the dying off of birds. Invent me teeth tobite with, scars to leave, the places you would maim
already in my eyes as atmospheres the edges
whisper, profiles I have let swan. . .
How nudity looks on the laundry line and
on the body. How there is dust, though not the kindthe wind kicks up. Once, the stars would eat
holes through our hunger; we were lilies then,with both the stringbean root and each serene lake.
We could cross our arms over the sarcophagiof our bodies. We could prepare for faithlessness.
Now every white shirt is surrender; the ashof last daylight leaves artifacts forgotten.
-from “Instructions to a Portraitist,” quoted above
-from “History of the Always Pain”
-from “After Days Not Found”
Waking is when you realize some man is dying
or about to be hung. His moments become lakesof constellation, more darkness between
than stars I see from the back of my underfed horse.
All but a few of the poems in the collection are in couplets and tercets, and the traditional stanzaic form has the effect of making the reader always feel on familiar ground, however far Militello’s resolutely elliptical language takes us from the hold of logical reasoning and narrative structure. The result of this form and content pairing is that the world of her language becomes our new familiar. Each time I finished a reading of Flinch of Song, I sat back and asked, how did she do that? Each of her poems is a self-contained experience, and they are collectively held together by the musical power of language. Its cadences, pacing, sound symbolism, and imagery lead the beguiled reader into interior spaces which are previously unknown and at the same time strangely familiar. I look forward to discovering what her next collection of poems will reveal about what I didn’t realize I already knew.