cover image May Day: Poems

May Day: Poems

Gretchen Marquette. Graywolf, , $16 ISBN 978-1-55597-739-9

In this precise first collection, Marquette writes around the subject of loss—of brothers, lovers, and selves—as a means to understand its parameters and reach. Many poems embody a composed stillness that can feel like an observation made in anticipation of a drawing or painting. Marquette nimbly fashions arresting imagery: across the chest of a beloved “burst a sash/ of gold chrysanthemum,” while elsewhere the ventricles of an exposed doe heart suck a vivisectionist’s fingers “like women// or infants.” The poems’ speakers often lie frozen in wait, but the world that Marquette conveys is alive with wild and domestic fauna, totems of the blood and warmth of humans’ animal nature. Deer appear often, and memories of a familiar dog, trusting and unconditional, traverse the poems. Though the poems are narrative, the collection’s timeline is shuffled, making time itself into something circular and winding; one minute a brother is present, and yet the next “He was already less ours.” That nonlinearity can also be seen in a poem about the Andromeda Galaxy that shifts perspective from the sky to an open wound in the mouth: “The hole in my jaw has clotted/ with something from a star.” As she explores longing and want, Marquette deftly navigates the infinite as well as the small and local. (May)