cover image Judas Goat

Judas Goat

Gabrielle Bates. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-953534-64-4

Bates fills her debut with intense imagery and surprising truths that arise from looking unflinchingly at recollections. The collection opens with “The Dog,” about a horrific death rescued from bleakness by the lines “How easily/ I could imagine a version of our lives/ in which he kept all his suffering secret from me.” These poems are laced with quotidian violence (“As if the only tool I owned for finding truth were a knife”) and suffering (“Forgive me, I am still learning how to know/ when a human will improve a scene”), as well as an abiding interest in creatures from dead white spiders to missing mothers. The majority of the poems are one-to-two pages, though the penultimate entry, “Mothers,” is six pages and feels like a breakthrough (“It sounds like the heart trying to leave the chest”) into the final offering, “Anniversary,” in which the narrator wonders about a marriage: “What’s the name for the way we wake/ to sirens and each roll inward on the frame?” These yearning poems offer intriguing descriptions and insights. (Jan.)