Watching TV, Seeing the Shot Woman

Sarah Blake

When I see the shot woman, a mother, with her child nearby, or in her arms,I want to hold my son. I want to pick him up from school and hold him untilmy heart stops hurting such that my brain tells me it’s being flattened, folded,when I know better. It’s beating along as usual. Same fist-like shape as ever.But not the sound I think, used to think of, lub dub, thudding, steady,    muffled.Since the cardiogram I know the sound is wet, bubbling, popping, andevery time I think of it, I feel sick. I’m uncertain about my body again forthe first time since my mother dissected a frog in front of me and I saw howbeautifully colored the organs can be. But then I was filled with excitementat the body’s potential and not nauseated by the secrets the body keeps.If I go to pick up my son, I’ll forget how badly I want to hold him in the car.Through our evening of errands, dinner, bath time, I might not get to hold himuntil bed. I will be tired. I will think of my own bed. Even as I hold him, I willthink of how to place his head back on the pillow, how to bring my arm backalong my own body. My elbow slips into the curve under my ribs. My wholebody is the infinite, the dips, the pivots—placeholders for the rest of my body.An act of containment.

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Sarah Blake

Sarah Blake is the author of the poetry collection Mr. West, founder of the online writing tool Submittrs, and a recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, and The Rumpus. She lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sarah Blake follows up her previous book of poetry, Mr. West, with a stunning second collection about anxieties and injury. Blake uses self-consciousness as a tool for transformation, looking so closely at herself that she moves right through the looking glass and into the larger world. Fear becomes palpable through the classification of monsters and through violences made real. When the poems find themselves in the domestic realm, something is always under threat. The body is never safe, nor are the ghosts of the dead. But these poems are not about cowering. By detailing the dangers we face as humans, as Americans, and especially as women, these poems suggest we might find a way through them. The final section of the book is a feminist, science fiction epic poem, “The Starship,” which explores the interplay of perception and experience as it follows the story of a woman who must constantly ask herself what she wants as her world shifts around her.

“Blake does an impressive job teasing out the complications of such a society.”
—Publishers Weekly

“[A] fusion of lyric and narrative laced with a heady blend of pop culture— monsters, zombies — and science fiction. And it all has bearing on the issues of the day, without ever preaching, just laying out the possibilities and, even more, the worrisome ambiguities.”
—Frank Wilson

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