cover image White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia

White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia

Kiki Petrosino. Sarabande, $15.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-946448-54-5

In this deeply felt fourth collection, Petrosino (Witch Wife) investigates her family tree—especially its roots in Virginia—and reports back on this exploration and its gaps. Petrosino’s modes and poetic forms are manifold, always attending to the strangeness of language that attempts to capture time. Results from a DNA testing kit become erasure poems which “cluster and/ spread/ and/ trade/ and/ carry” across the page like the DNA itself as it traveled in the bodies of her ancestors. A crown of sonnets winds together the losses of history, the loss of more immediate family, and structural racism. “Neat trick, close shave,” Petrosino writes about her experience in college, “How was I the dream, the hope, of the slave?” Moments like this, which consider the impact of the past on the present, achieve brilliance: “Only a few of our names survive./ We left you this: sudden glints in the grass/ The rest is grown folks’ business we say. Yet/ you keep asking who owned us.” The final poem, called an “Interlude,” suggests the book’s ongoing inquiry. This is an important and remarkable exploration of heritage. (May)