cover image Imaginary Vessels

Imaginary Vessels

Paisley Rekdal. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $17 trade paper (110p) ISBN 978-1-55659-497-7

In her subtle and multifaceted fifth collection, Rekdal (Animal Eye) turns various receptacles into representations of transience, sustenance, and drive. As the poet mulls motherhood as an imperfect substitute for immortality, a child mourns a burst soap bubble: “They don’t last!” The oyster, meanwhile, contains the pearl within its “labial meats” and the “heart rustles/ in its manila folder.” Rekdal’s lyrical symbols connect through the ages: “a car inhales the gas/ containing bones of dissolved dinosaurs/ and the cheese breeds mold to heal the cut that holds/ the hurt cradled inside the body.” A series of poems in homage to performer and wit Mae West are as delightfully subversive as their subject. In the alliterative voice of West, Rekdal advises, “Be belle and ball, too, a deb Coco-labeled;/ be ocelot, be lancet, be candle and cabled.” In another series, inspired by Andrea Modica’s photographs of skulls unearthed from the Colorado Mental Health Institute, Rekdal views the skulls as haunted former residencies of their owners’ shattered psyches. “What dreams remain encased inside this freckled/ gourd, this ostrich egg cradled on cardboard,” she writes. One particular skull resembles the desiccated remains of an armadillo’s shell—abandoned and obsolete. Rekdal’s address of the fundamental fragility at the center of existence possesses a vigor that inspires rereading. (Nov.)