Vagabond book reviews

Homebodies

by Sarah J. Sloat

Homebodies cover

There’s no place like home, and no one can expose its hidden dramas as deftly as Sarah Sloat. In her third collection of poems, Homebodies (previous collections are Excuse Me While I Wring This Long Swim Out of My Hair and In the Voice of a Minor Saint), Sloat gives us a glimpse into the lives of everyday objects—and what a revelation it is. Here there be toaster, toothbrush, kettle, whisk, mop, and sponge. Even a Princess phone! The faucet is “the saddest instrument, / its only song: de-plete, de-plete.” The whisk is a dervish, a frothmonger, while the mop dribbles “like an idiot.”

Sloat’s writing is fresh, vivid, always surprising, and her love of language is contagious. You’ll want to read aloud for the sheer lingual thrill, the taste and texture of “tangled ganglia,” “startling alarms,” a “drowsy growl,” “the thumbsuck, the meat stuck under the fingernail.” In “Wine Cellar,” Maison Langue Merlot “unbuttons the tongue.” Maison Vigniot Sancerre is “thin but delicious like rain.” And the Chateau Bonmot Syrah “enters the mouth like an intruder and bursts into song.” A line may turn a corner when you least expect it, taking you somewhere you had no idea you wanted to go (oh, but you do!): “Little house, in death the snow/will cover you like a doily.”

The homeliest of objects are here transformed from ordinary to extraordinary, and Sloat’s images are sometimes surreal, sometimes strikingly beautiful. Spending time with these poems feels like curling up with a box of chocolates – except that the poems are entirely guilt-free and more delicious. Savor them.

– Antonia Clark

Voodoo bungalow of crumbs,
encumbered by small hungers

how many evenings have I breathed
your vesper float of smoke,

how many mornings have I warmed
my hands over your burnt offerings?

Inside twin slits sit rows of filament,
aglow as kitchen brimstone. Snug

pulpit of hellfire, designed
to suck softness dry,

your task turns oat and wheat
to gold, exhales a fraught aroma.

With every trip of the lever,
how close I come to transformation –

somewhere a witch is burning,

somewhere a yogi goes
over the coals.

--from "Toaster"

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