I've recently been enjoying the fabulous Lauren Russell's What's Hanging on the Hush. My favorite thing about Lauren's poetry is her keen attention to musicality, a word sound skill at which not every poet is so deft. Consider the following example:
Throat to Ink, Ink to Fin
When I was ten,
my class went whale
watching off the California Coast.
I remember that time as worried
and tall, salt wind halo of frizz
gangly tip toe tripping
toward the rail, alone,
under my breath singing
"Shenandoah." I imagined
a soundtrack to my life, railed
in vibrato strain of bent-back
wind. The hiccup hack, leaning in.
My student writes an essay
about " the loneliest whale" that sings
at a pitch no other whale can hear. (Pitched
into the waves, an ocean tent, bent.)
"But how do you know it's the loneliest?" I insist.
When I was nine, calluses
on my palms from monkey bars,
I sang No man can a hinder me,
barring no note swung
vibrato lunge. But the end
of last summer hung
on a mockingbird song:
And the mockingbird
can sing like the crying
of a dove, the note bent
around a long vowel
strain, and notes
stuck to a mirror, and ink
tripped in the glass, fluke
and flippers rising back.
And my favorite poem in the collection:
I am lonely because I could not learn to be a body.
I was born upside down and could never balance on one foot.
I am lonely because there were too many cherry popsicles.
I was holding out for mango, and thus I missed the lesson on sucking up.
I was there for the lesson on ventriloquism: Be careful
when you transfer your voice to another. She might sell it on eBay.
He might dump it in the compost bin. You might be like the Little Mermaid,
lost outside your element, unable to speak to the Handsome Prince.
That is how I feel at parties, but I never had a singing lobster to help me adjust.
I am lonely because I shy away from lobsters.
I saw them crammed together in the supermarket tank, desperate with their pincers bound.
I was fourteen when I became a vegetarian. I was nine when I stopped watching TV.
I am lonely because I do not have a television.
When everyone talks about the latest reality show star, I say, "Who's that?"
and feel bored and superior. I was fifteen when I read Lolita in the bath--
an advantage of contact lenses, to be able to read in a room full of steam.
I am lonely because I stopped wearing contacts.
Some mornings someone steps onto the fire escape and empties a bucket
or bowl or bedpan or bamboo pot. I am always half asleep, and myopic
without my glasses I cannot tell if the dumper is a man, woman, child, or angel.
I am lonely because I never go to the window to find out.