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by Rachel Zucker
Wave Books, $18 (paper)
Rachel Zucker’s the pedestrians takes the reader on a meandering dream-quest of the maternal psyche. We are guided by a “she” who teems with elation, stoicism, and disbelieving horror. By turns brutally self-aware (“She was filled with hatred for the husband she loved so dearly”), passively accepting (“I must trust the universe how it fills and siphons me”), and fleetingly dappled with joy (“Look here a bright spot of life oh look another!”), she battles the implacable forces of her children, her spouse, her job, and even her own impulses toward self-preservation. There is no victory or epiphany. Throughout, she remains in a constant state of nearing the receding and unknowable horizon of her self: “This is who I am, she thinks, ‘in the end.’ But it is not the end.” Noticeably flattened in the poems (such as the more narratively self-contained “real poem (workshop)” and “i’m nobody you are too”) that lack the book’s characteristic rapid-fire framing and reframing of emotions, Zucker’s expansive and contradictory voice reaches true heights in poems such as “pedestrian,” where disparate strands meld into a choral “I” that crackles with complexity. In pursuit of her “ongoing project to ‘accurately describe women’s lives,’” Zucker unflinchingly depicts the vicissitudes of one woman’s variegated perception and so creates a new documentary poetics of motherhood: uncensored, relentless, and surreal. She proves that the maternal mundane is not in fact mundane at all: “the banal is often full of meaning.”
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