“if, in April,
the seeds planted in your scapulas
fail to bloom into wings
at least learn to love fallingâ€””
â€” from “Boneseeds”
The ten poems in wingless, scorched and beautiful delve into the dark corridors of women’s lives and bodies. These are women who have made mistakes, crawled through the muck, endured, and returned scarred but with renewed strength.
At first glance, a reader might perceive these poems as gloomy, but here death and rebirth dance with each other in cyclical pirouettes and hope comes back around eventually. For example, in the opening poem â€œBoneseeds,â€ the act of crashing down transitions through catastrophe into flight, while â€œbreeding, trumpet flowers out of the dead ashâ€ reveals how life â€” both plant vines and oneself â€” can labor to come back from destruction.
In â€œHer Intentions Are,â€ the â€œyouâ€ of the poem is a woman broken down by abuse, her shame and devastation revealed public on a city street corner. Her â€œevery clinging breath is futilityâ€ and her â€œtears are scented and boiling with the stink of desperationâ€. The imagery, such as wolves and women in battle armor, evokes a feeling of folklore that reflects the inner forests in which she struggles. Though no happily ever afters are on the horizon, the poem culminates in the ability to rise up and continue living.
Female sexuality and how it is twisted and commodified is discussed in the poems â€œPussy Passâ€ and â€œhigh artâ€. The first expresses rage at the entitlement of men, who expect their advances to be granted with ready sex â€” â€œevery man who thinks sex is a gumball thatâ€™s owed to them / after putting two nice-guy coins into the girl-machineâ€. Meanwhile, the second explores the nature of art, noting â€œsoft filters / donâ€™t make disenfranchised body parts / any less than pornographic.â€ For me, “high art” suggests that art is a mirror, reflecting both truth and lies that are determined by consensus of the beholders.
Each of the poems collected here is powerful, revealing its own mixture of beauty, strength, and pain. Multiple readings of these poems unveil new layers of meaning and I suggest downloading the collection, which is available free online, and spending time with each one.
“…poor things, they
canâ€™t see that I am
dead inside, numb to their
ether, the drug they smell on me is
freedom, they want to taste it like
ginger, a sweet and hot burn.”
â€” from “Vampire Boys” (note: not original formatting)
If wingless, scorched & beautiful proves to not be enough for you, never fear. Batts has released two other collections this year â€” another chapbook, Pictures From The Center Of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, March 2015), and a full length collection, Before Fire: Divorce Poems (ELJ Publications, 2015). Based on the strength of wingless, scorched & beautiful, I would recommend either of these collections as a good way to spend your money in support of the poet.