The Laura Poems
by Juliet Cook
Blood Pudding Press, 2006
"Sometimes it's hard to fake it. The face powder / and nose candy blur together…” This is the voice of Laura Palmer, a fictional character from the TV series Twin Peaks
, the subject of The Laura Poems
by Juliet Cook
. (Spoiler alert: this review will reveal plot details relating to Twin Peaks.)
A prom queen with a secret life, Laura Palmer is practically an archetype of abuse. While seeming flawless, she is being molested by the mysterious BOB; she is also addicted to cocaine and is prostituting herself.
The Laura Poems
is a collector's item chapbook from Blood Pudding Press, republished for a limited time to coincide with the 2017 airing of Season 3 of David Lynch's revived Twin Peaks
. In ten poems arranged roughly in chronological order, forming a quasi-narrative, poet Juliet Cook deconstructs Laura Palmer, the quintessential good girl with a wild side. These mostly short, accessible poems are written almost entirely from Laura's viewpoint and use striking, atmospheric imagery and metaphors to convey her horrendous, sad, and touching experiences.
Eccentric characters and surreal motifs and symbols from Twin Peaks
are also used in The Laura Poems
to good effect, such as references to the owl and the Log Lady, making this chapbook a welcome addition to the Twin Peaks
canon. However, it's not just Twin Peaks
fans who will enjoy The Laura Poems
. All those who empathize with a young woman's struggle for survival against hostile forces will be interested in these poems.
The abuse has begun by the time Laura is ten years old. BOB has been climbing through her bedroom window at night to molest her. She must stuff toilet paper in her heart-patterned panties to stop the bleeding.
Already, the seeds of darkness are being planted in Laura's psyche. Laura imagines being snatched up by an owl's talons, flying, then being dropped onto iron spikes. Laura says, "At least [I] can imagine / being dropped. Falling / falling / falling / in love with the dark spikes."
And so Laura becomes a good teenage girl with a secret life. Although she is prom queen and perfect on the outside, she is also prostituting herself at a brothel called One-Eyed Jack's and has become addicted to coke, which she needs to snort to forget the molestation, "to forget / his tongue — / a fishhook / sniggling her soul out / from between her thighs… // She'll do anything to float." Her secret life is none other than self-medication to erase her pain.
The poem describing Laura's death, "Now It's Dark," is a masterpiece, although scary to absorb. BOB turns out to be a demon who possesses Laura's father. BOB-Father waits for Laura in her bedroom. "A huge fire ant / morphs into a man / … her father. / Possessed and waiting / to claim his daughter's flesh…" In the end, "[d]eath decides it is hungry," and BOB-Laura's-Father kills Laura, using a roll of plastic to swaddle her body like a cocoon.
Telling truth about trauma is at the heart of The Laura Poems
by Juliet Cook. This is a haunting chapbook that's always interesting even as it encourages us as readers to get to know our own "dark spikes" better.
"The Owls are not what they seem." The Giant
Oh, how it swoops in her mind;
a blind fling into the wrought iron spikes.
She sometimes thinks she would rather be impaled
instead of this waiting on tenterhooks,
instead of this wondering, 'Who, who, who?'
She knows it's a raptor.
She knows it doesn't have bright feathers for her
to clutch onto. It's not that kind of bird.
It flies by night.
It flies by street lamp light
reflected off the zippers
of smiling body bags. She can't unzip
her own skin and the cruel talons
have already dug in to the back of her neck.
At least when seized as prey, she'll get to fly
for a few minutes. At least she can imagine
being dropped. Falling
in love with the dark spikes.
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