WITCH WIFE, BY KIKI PETROSINO
Like a water witch running a dowsing rod over the dirt, the poems of Kiki Petrosino’s third collection measure out the angles of the world’s curves, finding them in the speaker’s thigh gap, the fins of seahorses, or at Jantar Mantar, a gigantic Indian sundial that “curves away into slices of egg.” In “Political Poem,” the speaker teases through various incantations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “arc of the moral universe,” through the “arc of green fireworks in spring” to the arc of her own spine until “bodies, berries, beaks, barns” are all collapsing toward justice.
Unfolding over four sections—each sprinkled with villanelles and other crackling formal quirks—Witch Wife deftly slides back and forth between the humorous and the devastating, between the guttural and the cosmic, between the conditions of America and the particularities of the speaker’s own body. The body is “runny custard . . . with its buried corkscrew of hate.” The body is “botched,” is prophesied to have “a good belly for twins.” Motherhood, for the speaker a subject of yearning, fear, and revulsion, is a tension at the collection’s heart. In “Ghosts,” one of many poems in this collection haunted by the ghost of Anne Sexton, mothers “wear the moonrise like lace.”
On top of it all, Witch Wife is tremendously, darkly funny. In the afterlife, the speaker’s exes “rise up from their Mazdas & adorn themselves in denim.” Certain to make many ‘best of’ lists for poetry this year, Witch Wife is not one to be missed.