Moving through Girl on a Bridge, we experience a general progression through time: the teenager of “Great Lash” becomes an adult becomes a wife becomes the mother of the book’s final poem, “December.” And yet, juxtapositions between poems tend to jar us. Sometimes, things happen backwards here, or over and over. A tender love poem is sandwiched between two poems about marital unhappiness. A nightmare poem about Andrea Yates precedes a poem about giving birth, which precedes a poem about pregnancy.
Such time shifts are puzzling and pleasing.
Puzzling, because they force the reader to look at the poems again and wonder: are these the same voice, the same speaker? Is the pregnant woman in “A Comfortable Pair of Pants” the same woman who gave birth in “Birthday,” and who struggles with her child’s behavior in “Divine Madnes?” And is this (are these) speaker(s) the poet herself—an assumption I certainly made at the start of the book, but later began to question?
Pleasing, because I like the jarring effect of being pushed to and fro in time, and of being forced to question my basic assumptions about who speaks in these poems and why.
When Frischkorn achieves this time flux within a single poem, as in “Panther and Bathing Suit,” the result is a true standout. This poem, in which a young boy steals panties from a clothesline (when? in March, in August?) and an observer (where? how?), speaking to an unspecified you (who?), links his panicked flight to sleekness, reminds me of the Ray Bradbury short story “The Sound of Summer Running.” It’s specific, yet iconic; visceral, yet wrapped in a cloud. This time, though, it’s a woman interpreting the young boy’s story and linking it to her life.
Readers who loved the natural images of Frischkorn’s first collection, Lit Windowpane, will find that Girl on a Bridge has a little less water. Yes, there are a couple of bridges here, but they appear more as gritty instruments carrying cars from point A to B than as soaring curves above a river. That doesn’t make the book less concerned with ecology; Girl on a Bridge makes a case for the woman’s urban/suburban experience as a feverish symptom of ecological dystopia.
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