cover image Take Nothing with You

Take Nothing with You

Sarah V. Schweig. Univ. of Iowa, $19.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-60938-457-9

In her debut collection, Schweig explores the cadence of the city and its everyday dramas, the pain of loss and abandonment, and the amnesia of the heart that allows a person to love again. The poet flits through the urban landscape, overseeing juvenile offenders at community service, reminiscing at Brighton Beach, observing the distant lights from a rooftop. The collection’s standout is “After Catullus,” a pitch-perfect expression of spurned love: “When you find the man I loved// languishing in some remote city, screwing woman after/ woman, loving none, tell him how I gave the looters all his books.” A mournful ode to an unborn daughter and another to a recently lost mentor captivate as well. These themes of loss and absence also recur through mentions of her estranged father, as in “Stories”: “Once upon a time there was a man. And then there wasn’t.” Schweig also succeeds when she loosens the reins, “Sehnsucht” is a rollicking demonstration of wordplay: “He’s thus: He’s tense, he’s uncut, he’s/ nuts.” She falters occasionally with platitudes, such as “we all, now and then, walk alone,/ especially in the City of Men”—a warmed-over description of affected urban loneliness. Schweig is most successful when poking at her own wounds, delivering something raw and striking. (Nov.)