cover image Casualty Reports

Casualty Reports

Martha Collins. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $18 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6686-9

The probing 11th book from Collins (Night unto Night) reckons with social issues impacting the past, present, and future. At its core is an indictment of the American coal industry’s exploitation of laborers and destruction of the environment: “In my family’s town... there were accidents,/ there were explosions, there were strikes... a story with no heroes.” Through this lens, Collins examines systemic racism and the ongoing repercussions of slavery in America, as in the poem “Two,” which alludes to the murder of Trayvon Martin: “what kind of case is that a brief/ case of life what kind of ground/ that can’t be walked on back/ from a store with candy.” Collins captures life’s ephemeral quality, mourning the tangible and intangible: “arms/ and legs, innocence, sanity, girl-/ friends, wives, buddies, boy-/ friends, husbands, lives, children,/ families, babies, villages, ways/ and means of life.” In these self-aware pieces, Collins often pauses to account for her privilege: “I lived/ in my young white skin,” she writes, “how well did I/ take care how well do I take care of whom.” In trying times, readers will find refuge in Collins’s intelligent and generous lyric reflections. (Oct.)