cover image Radium Girl

Radium Girl

Celeste Lipkes. Univ. of Wisconsin, $16.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-299-34174-9

In this sage debut, Lipkes, a psychiatrist, combines her literary and scientific backgrounds in poems that explore the body’s mysteries and examine the relationship of mind and viscera. These pieces center on illness, escapism, illusion, healing, and the intersection of these subjects, utilizing metaphors of silence, emptiness, and confinement, as well as the magician’s white rabbit and dove. In a poem in which a magician murders a dove to obscure it and reveal another, she makes a wry request for transparency: “The kind of trickery I need to see: kill/ a bird and don’t pretend to bring it back.” Lipkes’s insight is punctuated by the personal suffering she’s endured through Crohn’s disease and the resilience that has moved her forward, her sardonic temperament assisting: “When I ask God if I will feel normal ever again,/ I take the silence to mean maybe.” Reflecting on a Dalí painting and syncope, she channels her reluctant memory through surrealism: “caravan of demons/ with spindly stilt legs/ teeth wide as tombstones/ unearthed with a roar// this is one desert of many// I recall only/ electric hooves on my chest/ my eyes emptying themselves.” Lipkes’s holistic perspective offers uncommon insight into the unrelenting and miraculous will of the body and consciousness. (Mar.)