cover image The Spoons in the Grass Are There to Dig a Moat

The Spoons in the Grass Are There to Dig a Moat

Amelia Martens. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-941411-23-0

Martens centers her debut collection of quietly poignant prose poems on family, religion, and myth as she seeks a fragile safety in an uncertain, violent world. She grapples with atrocities through nebulous hints of strife and mayhem or with direct allusions to such events as the Boston Marathon bombing, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Flirting with political assertions, Martens references a "first world" where "the people eat endless appetizers and die from sadness," immigrants are exploited, and football fans tailgate as people starve in Africa. Several poems depict Jesus in a variety of wearying occupations such as fast food drive-through attendant, TSA agent, and factory foreman; these largely feel half-hearted and underwhelming. Martens's stripped-down language is her greatest asset, finding expression in "an ache shaped like a sunflower." Her relayed conversations with her daughters are charming and often profound: "She wants to take my heart out and sweep every room." In "Almost Biblical," the poet stirringly imagines her daughters as a pair of monkey pajama%E2%80%93clad Pandoras opening a box to create the world. Martens's well-worn and occasionally overwrought politics may fall flat, but the personal touches soar, evidence of a solid poet finding her voice. (Apr.)