WILD MILK BY SABRINA ORAH MARK
Wild Milk is equal parts setup and punchline, a brilliant logic of surreal, layered humor that skips its way towards deeply-felt truths. Author Sabrina Orah Mark, who has previously written two books of poetry, offers us short stories that blend fairytale, Who’s-on-First-style drollery, and current cultural moment to deliver back a clearer version of our own warped reality, often presented through the lenses of mothers and daughters. Here, Mark says, is a world of women, of makers and givers who are caring for others—sons, presidents, students—even as they work to understand themselves. It is to our benefit that Mark routinely shrinks this world down (“Father has been getting smaller. Yesterday he towered above me. Now he comes up to my knees”) and blows it back up (“‘By the time they arrived,’ I explain, ‘the daughters had turned.’ ‘Rotten?’ she asks . . . ‘Gigantic,’ I repeat. ‘And mealy. I sent the whole bin back’”), blurring the realms of adulthood and childhood to better illuminate the emotional realities of both.
The stories in Wild Milk are linked by their language—Mark is quick to remind us, in stories like “My Brother Gary Made a Movie & This is What Happened,” that we can use words to play even as we push against them, struggle to select the right ones—and relative brevity, their strangeness and whimsy, and also, often, by the delightful threading of images from one story to the next. In this regard, Mark is as much juggler as she is philosopher and jester, remixing milk, eggs, bones, oranges as she throws out questions: “‘Have you ever believed . . . in something much, much bigger than you?’”; “‘If you love Poems so much, why don’t you marry Poems?’” It’s a testament to Mark’s exceptional skill as a writer that we exit Wild Milk agreeing, assessing the bright, poetic language that she wields so well here and asking ourselves: why can’t we—indeed, why don’t we all—marry this book?
—Review by Elizabeth DeMeo