cover image The Pedestrians

The Pedestrians

Rachel Zucker. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $14 trade paper (143p) ISBN 978-1-933517-89-6

This self-described “woefully feminine” collection from Zucker (Museum of Accidents) is marked by a frayed, neurotic humanism and composed with thrilling deftness and control. Split into two “books,” the opening section is called “Fables,” and is composed of prose poems identified by minimalist headers and written in the third person. The language here edges toward pure prose, making the works disarmingly accessible and unflinching in their narrations of the struggles of married life and the rhythms of misunderstanding: “Her scrunched wet face made him feel helpless and feeling helpless made him angry and his anger made him mean.” Zucker’s small, sharp scenes sing with a magnetic tension and disappointment. The second section, “The Pedestrians,” moves into the first person; its title evokes both ordinary people and the blinking crosswalks of New York. Zucker finds her city oppressive yet extraordinary: “the disaster of human progress I have just left is then inescapably obvious how could I? live like?” she stutters. Feelings about home and motherhood are similar; who is she but “interior interior/ interior the incidental woman/ now color shape no face at all.” Zucker constructs poems from common sorrow, but they are worried and whittled down to something extraordinary, where even dreams unnerve: “all bark no bud/ or blossom/ can break through.” (Apr.)