cover image Black Box

Black Box

Erin Belieu, . . Copper Canyon, $15 (67pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-251-5

Titled after the flight-data recording devices analyzed in plane-crash investigations, Belieu's forceful third collection examines the wreckage of interpersonal disaster, chiefly a nasty marital breakup: "there wasn't a ribald// particular I didn't come to know:// the yoga instructress on Valentine's Eve,/ the xeroxed erotica files// arranged by body part." The poems' formal composure belies an anger so thoroughgoing it threatens at times to become simplistic ("This day's so blue, so pretty, let's smash it under glass"), but an equally relentless black humor shows the poet knows she's acting out. Belieu (One Above, One Below, 2000) is also interested in how emotional extremity makes shameless performers of us all, an observation dramatized in the book's astonishing centerpiece, the longer poem "In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral." Here the poet imagines a broken marriage as a car crash you only half survive, unleashing a fury so spectacular it takes on the dimensions of myth: "I lift my scarlet tail above your grave/ and let the idiot villagers take me/ in torchlight/ one by one by one by one...." (Nov.)