by Brynne Rebele-Henry
Nightboat Books, 2016
Imagine you are a voyeur, peeking through a keyhole at the lives of everyone around you, if only for a second each. Imagine the dirty secret things you would see. Imagine the tenderness & wanting. The rage. People at their best, or ugliest, depending on your perspective. This is the world that Brynne Rebele-Henry has created, or better yet, revealed, in her frighteningly vivid debut, Fleshgraphs
(Nightboat Books, 2016).
is violent & dazzling, intimate & risqué, a book that is terrifying in how actual it is. Fleshgraphs
portrays the human as a full animal, driven by sex & survival. Here, everything is laid bare; there is a consistency of blurred lines — between old & young, prude & libertine, virgin & mother, girlhood & womanhood.
You put your hand against my thigh. We both pretended it didn't happen.
Sweep of brackish dripping down my legs, I don't like cotton so I push other things in it: the end of a silk scarf from a husband, a string of pearls, I think of fruits but I can't fit them, so I leave the stained twill bathmat and walk around my flat with the scarf and pearls flapping against my legs. Brandy's coming soon, she promised me cake.
I loved you, the shape of the dark crescents of hair on your legs. I sweep my fingers into your ear, caviar-fingered, I sumptuous them into my mouth.
Rebele-Henry has crafted her book with concise imagery that shocks & stuns. Sexuality is left as vague, inconsequential. Nothing is off limits. We go from hookup culture to rape culture to self harm to terminal illness to BDSM to body image. Further & further, at breakneck speed, but oh so fluidly.
Straight boys after dark aren't straight, just thin wavy sweat lines on the mattress.
Catholic school is like one long gangbang, Lisa says.
I try to fit a tin can inside of my mouth and the aluminum slices into my tongue like a piece of candy.
I devoured all 92 pages within an hour, stopping only to whoop & gasp & say FUCK! Fleshgraphs
transcends the popular conventions of poetry — it is presented in snippets of scenes, so it reads like one long poem, or 266 little ones. Like a slideshow, characters are introduced & tossed aside right after. It's sometimes difficult to discern whether these are disconnected scenes or parts of one single life, and that in itself is notable. This is where Fleshgraphs
holds its genius. It captures, so well, every terrible & glorious moment, how every single thing is fleeting.
David says that he knows what girls taste like: Sour cream and strawberries.
I drink a cup of bleach and wait for my organs to turn shiny and blonde: beach bunny baby can't be acquired without pain but I know that every platinum dart of me will be fuckable.
Barry said that threesomes are like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost gangbanging a communion wafer.
While reading, I imagined the most conservative of my friends reading Fleshgraphs
, and I couldn't help but laugh. It's like this book is staring at the kids who just came back from bible study, and yelling: ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING AROUND YOU. But then again, the book ends with a single stunning line (though uncharacteristically simple) that would probably bring them some respite: The thing is we are probably angels.
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