cover image A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments

A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments

Jennifer Militello. Tupelo, $16.95 (86p) ISBN 978-1-936797-75-2

Through haunting language and metaphor, Militello (Body Thesaurus) conjures a third collection that operates as a disturbing representation of mental anguish as it spills into violence. In poems grouped as "songs," "dictionaries," or epistles addressed to B, a sequence of speakers meditate on familiar yet foreign images: Red Riding Hood's grandmother recalls being ravished by the wolf, Artemis lies in wait for prey, Icarus mourns his wings, and Odysseus longs for home. "A Dictionary of the Symphony in the Voice of Ludwig van Beethoven" depicts Beethoven beset by a looming predatory presence that "will fling you over its shoulder tarnish you turn you into a schoolboy." Meanwhile, the person writing to B clings to sanity in a "black trance" where "All I know to hold onto slips. A stitched thread to control each buttonhole's abyss." Poems in the voice of teenage murder victim Marion Parker may be too morbid for some readers, and. Militello's language can be melodramatic or precious ("My heart filled with villanelles of longing"). But the collection is largely an exquisite example of the modern gothic: shadowy, beset by menacing weather and violent feelings, and positively bewitching. When Militello writes "I want to be anesthesia sly inside the patient,/ counting down to knock her out," she describes and demonstrates her own ingenuity at its best. (May)