cover image The Cold and the Rust

The Cold and the Rust

Emily Van Kley. Persea, $15.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-89255-488-1

Van Kley imbues her sharp debut collection with the complex, wistful nostalgia an outsider feels for her hometown. In her case home is on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the themes referenced in the book’s title are pervasive throughout. Van Kley skillfully captures the local topography, with its “Flooded mine buildings thrusting their acidy tongues/ down// and down,” and “the frozefish tang/ of Superior mawing the harbor.” The work is punctuated by small moments that open onto a wider narrative: a Kmart security guard detains a “reedy punk” shoplifting a CD; a server suppresses disdain for her restaurant’s tourist clientele; and a woman succumbs to despondency after a bar fight with her husband, realizing that “dreams are only pimped// impossibilities, postscript overtures.” Van Kley alternates moments of humor with instances of darkness and melancholy, writing of deer hunts, menstrual cramps, and even an aquarium of fish left to freeze in a home without heat. “Our pets/ terrible sculptures of themselves,// orange scales undimmed/ eyes caught bored-open,” she writes. Van Kley precisely captures the deathly pall of a Midwestern winter in this remarkably vivid exploration of how it feels to leave home and then return. (Mar.)