cover image The Pact

The Pact

Jennifer Militello. Tupelo, $18.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-946482-47-1

Militello (Knock Wood) probes the wounds of her relationships with a confessional style and labyrinthine language in her emotionally resonant latest. “Agape Feast,” opens with the somewhat hackneyed lines “What is love but the bruise of the abrasion,/ the fruitlessness, the deep incision,” but arrives at considerably fresher language, “Its ribs/ grate like gnashed teeth. It sings like/ the polished floors of a bank.” A series of poems depicts a fraught sibling relationship, addressing a sister whose mercurial feelings and behavior keep the rest of the family on edge: “Your anger is a dream/ we wake from, having chipped the edges/ of our teeth. Your anger is a tiled floor/ gapped and cracking, asbestos underneath.” Militello has a natural flair for rhyme, complemented by nearly flawless rhythm; the poems beg to be read aloud. However, her commitment to these attributes results in lines and metaphors that do not always stand up to close reading. In “Odaxelagnia,” a speaker addresses a lover with erotic intensity that is dampened by perplexing phrases such as “I sink/ my teeth and they knit your history/ a coat.” While some poems are more successful than others, there is an inventive musicality to Militello’s language that’s easy to enjoy. (May)