cover image Soundmachine


Rachel Zucker. Wave, $20 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-940696-86-7

In this artfully layered fifth collection, Zucker (The Pedestrians) punctuates 25 lyrical essays with “myriad things I should never say to you or to anyone.” Spontaneous and shifting from “I” to “she,” these pieces defy genre and interrogate the role of wife, mother, and artist as fixed identities: “Every night I turn off the light & take off my motherskin,” she writes. In poems such as “Song of the Dark Room,” which situates the reader “in this honeycomb with three boys & books & comforts & consumables,” Zucker expertly deploys the catalogue technique: “What the wife has tried: Ambien, counting sheep, apple cider vinegar... rice sock, homeopathy, fear of morning, prayer.” Depicting both the pleasures of long marriage and its tensions with sharp humor and vulnerability (“I’m leaving, the Husband texts. In this context it means he is coming home. I’m going to bed, I respond, which means, in a way, I’m leaving”), Zucker’s speaker looks both inward and outward, confronting mortality firsthand as well as the larger politicized prospect of it (“human forms turned away from each other: bordered, detained, toxic poisons seeping creeping across the borderless natural world”). Zucker renders even the simplest inquiries—such as “hasn’t anyone tried to stop this?”—resonant and profound in this restless and thoughtful book. (Oct.)