My good friend R had to cancel this afternoon, as she was not feeling well. I was so disappointed! But I was at University Village anyway, so I went to the bookstore there and bought: The Orchard, by BP Kelly; Wedding Day, by Dan Levin; and Voluntary Servitude, by Mark Wunderlich.
I read the Wunderlich book this afternoon, and it is absolutely amazing. Its opening poem "Amaryllis" begins: "You've seen a cat consume a hummingbird,/scoop its beating body from the pyracantha bush/and break its wings in tufted paws . . ." And we know now that we are in the grip of the world in all its "survival of the fittest" mode.
One of the beams upon which this book is structured is the idea of "master & servant" (yes, imagine the Depeche Mode song of the 80's, and you've got the gist). It's a theme that pervades his examination of our dominance/servitude relationship with the animal world, with language, and with our more "human" pairings. In "Lamb," for instance, the narrator is called upon to help deliver a pair of lambs: "Inside the sheep's hot center, lambs tangle,/soft joints press a tender twin./. . . I will bring them forth, bleating into January./ . . . They will come when I call . . . even though I call them to the gleaming hook."
Later, in "I Too Am An Animal of Great Beauty," a prose poem in which the narrator is partnered with another man for a sexual liaison: "Hogtied and hemstitched, gag in my mouth, I want your damage, your tight strung racket batting me back."
In "It's Your Turn to Do the Milking, Father Said," he recalls a summer spent as an erotic dancer, and melds it to a memory of milking the goats as a child on the farm (the euphemism of an older man's semen being "goat's milk" is not lost upon this reader): "The poor goats. I brought them in and milked them, they were so uncomfortable."
The final poem, "The Meeting" is a wonderful explication of an encounter in the woods: "What was it like to touch him?/ . . . I recall only the weight of an arm,/trees crossing out the sun/and a path leading out into the open."
What a pleasure to discover this book! Thank you to Rebecca for "standing me up."