Bird Skin Coat (Brittingham Prize in Poetry) by Angela Sorby

By Angela Sorby

Fowl pores and skin Coat is brimming with startling moments of good looks chanced on inside of a rusty and decayed panorama. With wild lyrical photographs of ascent and descent—doves and dives, sparrows and slugs, attics and cellars—this assortment displays Sorby’s prepared eye for mixing photographs. As they commute among the higher Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, those poems discover how the novel instability of the area can also be the resource of its energy.  Honorable point out, Posner Book-Length Poetry Award, Council for Wisconsin Writers  Winner, most sensible e-book of Poetry, Midwest booklet Awards Winner, Lorine Niedecker Poetry Award, Council for Wisconsin Writers

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Sample text

Was dinner delicious? What time did they turn in? So, 1940: after dinner they climb the stairs to a guest room. No one knows it’s there; it just grows as rooms do in dreams. I want to watch them from above. I want to hold my breath and watch my grandparents make love. 27 CONVERSION NARRATIVE When Mount Rainier comes out we’re taken in by its vast calm—the calm of a corrupt spiritual leader— and I remember Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s skin (how luminous, how light) as she predicted the end of the world from a podium at the Holiday Inn.

On Henry Anderson’s death-day his lungs sputtered like a Model T. His father (my great-grandfather) closed his eyes. Henry’s engine powered the house: it heated the cellar. It lit the porch. Why couldn’t his sister Helen die instead? No one spoke these words: instead the question fell on the house like a raven’s shadow, and the bedrooms got so cold that Helen (my grandmother) lost half her hair: it disappeared, into a black bird’s nest. Meanwhile, Sophie’s father revised his book on dreams: in dreams the world is germfree— danderless dogs, twins in gloves, 25 pure wells.

Husbandly bodies are prairies where grasses seed grasses, spreading endlessly, up to—and over—the edge of intelligibility. Is Iowa far? Yes and no—its borders are unclear after sundown, when the corn grows: we are here, and our husbands are there, 17 as if a distinction could be made between the plain Midwestern night and ghostlier demarcations, deeper shades. 18 ERIN’S LEATHER JACKET The arborist’s wife, Erin, will be beautiful at fifty: her beauty is so pale, so blonde, it floats independently of her face, like the “spirits” that nineteenth-century fakes brushed onto daguerreotypes.

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