ONE PERFECT BIRD
Poems by Letitia Trent
Varieties of Ghost
Fairy Tale Pattern
Another one about the material
Advice from the I-Ching on what to write about next
Advice from the I-Ching on whether I should take up public speaking
Variation on the Dancing Princesses
The Reader's Digest Guide to North American Wildlife
Biography of Flax
Anger as an Animal
The animal I made you
A Romantic Encounter
If You See Kay
Eurydice in the Underworld
Back at the Camp
I reach my hand inside his cranium
Out Like a Lamb
In Letitia Trent's debut full-length collection, the poems unfold like wildflowers in the spring, each one more surprising and dazzling than the last. But they are not simply a fleeting beauty, but rather a voracious and heated sort that stays with you long after you've closed the book. These poems, rooted deeply in the places that they explore, are impeccably constructed and bitingly honest. This is a collection from a new voice that must be heard.
"Reading these poems I was reminded of the voice and vision of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. Similarly, the emotional and psychological rawness of human thought, as crafted by Letitia Trent in surprising, elusive, and innovative lines, startles us into a recognition so profound, we're not entirely sure what we're reading or if we're reading. It's a pleasing and unsettling experience--and I daresay, what literature should and can be."
- Kathy Fagan, author of Lip
"The poems in One Perfect Bird ride like a dirty living letter in a good, clean envelope. They are the silty Tang in our cups, the color of the hunters' vests like ribbons through the birches as they searched our forest for any rusty bursts of blood. They are primarily poltergeists; mesh net masks and subtly singing beards, bee bodies slipping from their chins like honey. If it's true that I lifted all these lines of praise from the lines in Letitia Trent's poems--and it is true--then who could blame me? For the lyricism required to describe them, I can't better their maker. No one could."
- Kyle Minor, author of In the Devil's Territory
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We are boarding the slim
silver train, trailing sweet
expectations like Swedish Fish
from the little girl's fist.
Look, she says, and I lower
my head: a red
palm, jelly in her teeth.
Suddenly everyone is moving, wheeling
squeaky suitcases, brushing pretzel pieces
from their button catches or tiny vest pockets.   Look,
I say, we've got to go, got
to get moving. Her fish trail us
like footprints, like where we've
come from jellied and risen to follow.
The conductor is in silver and the hum of
machinery rises like rust
in a wheel-well—slow
then all of a sudden. You'll have to ride
all sticky, I say, meaning to make her understand, to make
her weep, you'll have to ride like a dirty living
letter in a good, clean envelope.
He wants shoes that slip easy on his feet,
and when he says I want shoes he wants them
pointing faithfully, like a dog's two paws
with the head lowered between. He wants a dry
toothbrush. To him, Easter should be accompanied
by tympanis and clarinet recitals
by enthusiastic children. He specifies
split reeds and cherry cola. He secretly wants
one at home, spilling peanuts on the counter.
He wants me with a whip, the tip of my pump
against his coccyx. Do you suspect that he's bodiless?
The only question is what he means as a symbol.
And how even the unconscious, like a rigged
shopping cart, pulls a hard right toward
the brightest produce. We could watch him
from a distance swimming laps around
the kidney-shaped pool, initial-embroidered towel
whipping his thighs after he comes clean from the blue.
Chip, Kit, Logan, Gatsby, every boy who bestows
his friends with sun and pool house loss
of innocence. But I want him to say something
redeeming, revealing that we both watch for signs
of light across the lake and we are both piled bright
silk shirts and we are both traveling across
the blue in exhausted little boats.
I've stilled the house
completely. I hear blood
whirring, its sound like the sound
of the mother's heart
crowding the infant's ear.
Nothing out gets in unless
I ask, unless I want to skitter
the roll of regular, the daily
punctuation of my sky
with one perfect bird.
A man paces my green
lawn in a tuxedo. I raise
his hand and make him wave,
make his face fall. The bird
beats from my frame,
scenting a storm's arrival.
If I could find that hammer
the curved end for prying
up nails and floorboards, I might
slip through the window.
I might give him my umbrella.