cover image Gray Matter

Gray Matter

Sara Michas-Martin. Fordham Univ., $19 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-8232-5779-9

Michas-Martin is investigative and clear spoken in her debut collection, with a unified focus on the interior self and its interactions with both the utilitarian body and the external world. Sleep and memory are often invoked or used as a setting in which the body performs subconscious interpretations of experiences in hands-off displays, teasing the self in light of memory's fleeting ethereality ("Time I knew would not come back/ or that feeling") or to sifting through dreams' illogic ("losing teeth is a woman's dream common and associated with vanity"). An undercurrent of frustration and helplessness gives an emotional life to Michas-Martin's biological investigations. Despite even a comprehensive understanding of brain function, it%E2%80%94along with the entirety of the body%E2%80%94is persistently beyond control, such as in "The Empty Museum": "I shake the brain/ wanting a file to slip." Lesser moments find Michas-Martin more shallowly seeming to present the highlights of a neuroscience or psyche textbook, acting out processes and symptoms in a narrative, but not necessarily getting at something beyond them through invention or aggressive questioning. But even this builds toward a satisfying whole that's confident in its pursuits and approaches them from an impressive number of angles. (Mar.)