Liz Bahs‘ 2020 debut Stay Bones is a colorful, lively collection of poems that take us to many different places, among them a library in Miami, an Islington bus, televangelist Billy Graham’s headquarters, a pub in Carrigaline, Ireland, and a gas station in Zephyrhills, Florida.
In “Dried Mango“, two young women examine the fruit before eating:
She takes each strip out / holds it up to the sun / names the shapes / one by one / like the first naming of things / — foetus labia seaweed — // until each takes on life
These sisters unwittingly take on the task Adam was given, to name creation as it came into life. Unlike the evangelicals we meet in “Billy Graham’s Evangelistic Headquarters“, the speaker in many of these poems cares so much about life outside herself – a fledgling, stray cats, hummingbirds, – that she can’t stop thinking about it. There’s no time, really, to worry about the small bird that’s fallen from the nest, to keep watch over it, but she can’t leave it unwatched. The natural world seems to reciprocate: in “Hummingbirds”, birds come to check on a child.
Originally from the US, but living in the UK, Bahs’ expatriate experience is reflected in her work. Stay Bones takes us to both sides of the Atlantic, and there’s a sense, in poems like “Zephyrhills” and “Greyhound Night Service: Atlanta to Miami“, of being out of place.
In “Zephyrhills”, the speaker forgets for a moment where she is and kisses her girlfriend in public. In contrast, another poem introduces us to “Our Ladies of Carrigaline, Ireland” – ladies who would have felt similarly alien in Zephyrhills, Florida, who live their truths despite the strict Catholic background of their mothers. Another poem set in the American south introduces us to “Patience, 16” who negotiates her own place in a world of trigger happy conservatism.
If you can get your hands on this book, make sure you also check out the dream-like poem “Okapi“, where a miniscule okapi appears in the speaker’s home and makes it his own.
Stay Bones is available from Pindrop Press: http://pindroppress.com/books/Stay%20Bones.html
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