cover image Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl

Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl

Diane Seuss. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-55597-806-8

Seuss (Four-Legged Girl) homes in on the act of engaging with art to brilliantly imagine worlds beyond a painting’s frame. The real art work is in the action of regarding, Seuss suggests: “My eyes were hungry for paint, like I used to imagine/ a horse could taste the green in its mouth// before its lips found the grass.” Flanked by invigorating ekphrastic poems and self-portraits, the collection’s midsection, with scenes of discarded Americana rolling across a Walmart parking lot, has a different feel. But art abounds here too: “With the contents of one box and one can, we bake something/ so sweet and gold you’ll want to marry the pan. In this way,/ we are alchemical.” These middle poems focus on ordinary people without condescending or seeing them as tragic figures: “We are like bowls. There have always been bowls. They’re shaped the way they are for a reason.” Though the book has its moments of mourning, it avoids viewing the still life as a stagnant tableau in favor of considering it a fleeting glimpse of something much larger. These poems may linger in the darkness, but Seuss insists on “giving you/ hope like a weird dessert whether you want it or not.” (May)