by Canese Jarboe
Willow Springs Books
ACME Poetry Series, 2018
Neosporin Pussy Queen, Rodeo Queen, Rapunzel, figurine, showgirl, apex predator, a midnight bride with a 40-foot train: Canese Jarboe’s speaker is all of these and more, riveting us in their debut chapbook, dark acre (Willow Springs, 2018). I have been entranced, awe-struck with Canese ever since I met them (digitally) in 2016, and was floored to hear their chapbook had been selected for publication in the ACME Poetry Series from Willow Springs Books. I was honored to read and accept poems by them the following year for Indiana Review (which you can read here in IR 39.2), including one of the opening pieces, “Landscape with My Father & a Dead Man’s Harmonica.”
After the sharp entrance to the book, “Using a Stolen Guide on Morse Code, I Send a Signal Out My Bedroom Window into the Cornfield” (a code which translates to: “I am still here”), the ghostliness of “Landscape…” follows with its hauntings and huntings, black ants, nail gun, a spirit in the rafters. Jarboe immediately provides us with the ethereal, the rural, the sensual corners of a self. Self as bride and bridle, self as bodied and already gone.
Although dark acre is chapbook-length, it manages to engage wholly, to sew us into the side of this world, one of graves and blowjobs, wolf peaches, saddles, bull thistle and moths, taxidermy, magnolia, food coloring and gravel, a “nylon thong…bedazzled with river rocks” (25). The acreage of dark acre is concrete and touchable, constructed of tactile particulars we can almost ingest, almost absorb sponge-like. “I remember a horse in a parade with glittery, pink hooves. I remember when I had glittery, pink hooves” (15). Like the speaker, we enter into each image bodily, feeling it entire.
For months now, I have been collecting poems which strike me, printing them out, and then taping them to my bedroom wall, like a vision board. Canese’s poem from this collection, “Rapunzel w/ Head Half-Shaved,” has been above my bed for half a year now. I am drawn to it for its startling moves, how it shifts from “There wasn’t any juice in the fridge” to “so, I drank the cow vaccine” without hesitation, from peonies to herons to calamine lotion to tetanus.
Like in “Rapunzel…”, many of the pieces in dark acre play with white space, silences, the sense of images speaking back and forth across a distance. In the titular poem, for instance, the poem sprawls and echoes over several pages, often with text at the top and the bottom with a blank expanse at the center:
Do you think I am under a curse?
A banshee is just a rumor that a barn owl started (36).
A conversation of selves, the speaker interrogating themselves in a vacant field, in a mini-fridge, in a nightgown. dark acre devours, it rushes forth with intimacy and pain, violence and survival, truly alive. Jarboe asks us to: “openthedooropenthedooropenthedoor” (33) and how could we resist? Bold and corporeal, dark acre is not to be missed, is meant to race upon us ferocious.