Lauren Berry’s bracing and emotionally charged first collection of poetry delivers visions of a gothic South that Flannery O’Connor would recognize. Set in a feverish swamp town in Florida, The Lifting Dress enters the life of a teenage girl the day after she has been raped. She refuses to tell anyone what has happened, and moves silently toward adulthood in a community that offers beauty but denies apology. Through lyric narratives, readers watch her shift between mirroring and rejecting the anxious swelter of her world, until she ultimately embraces it with the same violent affection once tendered to her.
THE JUST-BLED GIRL REFUSES TO SPEAK
The entire red carnation in my mouth.
Like any panicked schoolgirl, I’m inarticulate
and constantly introduced
to beautiful things. Today it’s a doctor
who says, Young La-dy! and demands,
Young La-dy, you cannot keep that garden
in your throat. How will we ask you question?
How will you sip from the glass of water
and tell us what he did to you? Softly I slip
the red carnation further into my throat.
There must be hundreds
of ways to be a girl. I’m just the kind
who has trouble parting her lips.