cover image Four-Legged Girl

Four-Legged Girl

Diane Seuss. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $16 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-55597-722-1

In this visceral whirlwind of a third collection, Seuss (Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open) conjures a distinctly disturbed narrative persona who recalls her life tragedies in unparalleled descriptive language. These griefs are physically located: her father’s death in rural Michigan, where “clouds are bags heavy with empties/ gathered from parking lots of strip malls,” and a former lover’s overdose in New York City. The New York poems reference William Burroughs and Andy Warhol and capture the downtown punk aesthetic: “our clothes, black,/ our hair, our beans, our three rooms on E. 7th nearly windowless.” The lover’s death recurs as both an inevitability and a shocking blow, as these things often are—his ghost “heating a spoon/ of delirium over the smoldering punk of my ruined ardor.” In a long poem at the book’s center, these two deaths poignantly merge, with the air “lush with ghosts,/ standing in line, hats in hands,” and the associations of a familiar song she “can no longer stomach.” But welcome moments of humor and joy punctuate the series of downers, such as the celebration of a youthful friendship’s “smutty angst and reckless kleptomania at the eye-shadow emporium.” Endlessly inventive with her language and feats of imagination, Seuss makes a world full of the trappings of death feel vibrantly alive. [em](Oct.) [/em]