cover image Dereliction


Gabrielle Octavia Rucker. The Song Cave, $18.95 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-73727-757-6

Rucker’s unusual debut is stubbornly her own, its idiosyncratic diction steeped in the supernatural: “It’s a gamble relying on flesh—a wrist charm thieved from a crypt will/ make gossip to the soul of the burglary.” Mayan gods, coming-of-age rituals, sexuality, swamp vegetation, and strange landscapes converge in lyrical, narrative, and prose poems. The speaker obsessively revisits scenes from childhood and adolescence: “I don’t remember what I prayed for, high as I was on gummy bears,/ roaming the cul-de-sac.” The collection’s stance against coherence reveals a sadness rooted in betrayal, confusion, and self-harm. “It Is in My Silk You Go Sobbing,” and “The Afterlife” both mourn the punctured naiveté of childhood. In “Dysnomia or Tantalum Obsolete (a short film),” the refrain “Bluetooth pairing fails” is an apt metaphor for discontinuity. The poet ends with a refusal to apologize for her refusals: “Wholeness, you see, is/ not my goal.” This is a raw, strange, and memorable book. (Nov.)