The thing all women have is mouths,he says in the work truck, that don't shut.Let me drive once, I brokein hot sand. Shoveling the tires looseso much of his back showsover his pants. Calls me princess.Pops the hood warms hisbreakfast on the engine.These are life lessons—how to clean trash cans:lighter fluid and a cigarette.All it takes to hypnotize a chickenis its neck in your armpit.What you need is to killsomething and eat it.He finds old condomsto chuck at me, hornet nestsstuck in Pepsi cans he callsMichael Jacksons. Getting stungis crew initiation. Bets I've neverworked a day, shows melumps where a saw slippedthrough his face. Lets me struggleover the dumpster:you should have to weigh morethan this bag of garbagefor them to pay youto throw away.
“Ray” from VANTAGE: by Taneum Bambrick.
Published by American Poetry Review on September 24, 2019.
Copyright © 2019 by Taneum Bambrick.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Taneum Bambrick is the author of Intimacies, Received (Copper Canyon Press 2022), and Vantage (American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Award 2019). Their work can be found in the New Yorker, The Nation, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles and is a Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California.
“Vantage is a moving, radical work of art, written in a quiet clear voice. Taneum Bambrick has given us an extraordinary first book. Part of its freight has to do with ecological devastation, told with no voluptuous sentiment. Not ‘told’ so much as seen—the ferocious images not metaphor but reality. Not ideas but things.”
—Sharon Olds, from the introduction
“Vantage is stunning, a true feat of language. It complicates what we think we know without ever turning away from its root—the destruction of our planet, our bodies, our selves.”
—The Adroit Journal
“These poems are tense, tight, and utterly devastating in their clear-eyed examination of the harms we commit against the land and each other.”