Laura Read’s second poetry collection jumps back and forth in time to illuminate the identities of a life in progress: lost child, lonely adolescent, teacher, daughter, friend, wife, mother—a woman continuously shaped and reshaped by memory and experience. With an eye on gender issues, Read looks back at her childhood in the ’70s and ’80s as she observes how popular culture is shaping her sons’ lives today.
The scar on my arm is thin like the skin
of a fruit close to splitting.
It marks my birth as before ’72,
before the end of smallpox but after polio,
after the wheelchairs and the iron lungs,
the radios crackling with war.
If you were born then, you remember
taking your Halloween candy
to the fire station to have it checked
for razor blades. Maybe there was one
black girl in your class like Martha Washington
who brought upside-down clown cones
for her birthday and then moved away.
You watched the Challenger blow up
on the news again and again.
I was there in my boots and eyeliner,
waiting by the wall until a boy
asked me to dance.
"No one can deliver a deadly and disarmingly frank line like Laura Read, whose nostalgia and memory for high school jobs at Taco Time and green eyeliner and childhood (her own and her sons’) and learning (her own and her students’) is as barbed as it is brilliant. This is one of the most beautiful and wickedly true collections I’ve read in ages, and it reminded me of how rare it is to find someone who writes ‘a true sentence, the one you finally say.’" —Alexandra Teague
"Laura Read is one of the great love poets of our age – her love is wide and searching, generous and demanding. She offers the fullness, complexity, and yearning of a daughter’s, wife’s, mother’s, and lover’s feelings. Fully human and deeply nuanced, Read’s poems propose a vision of love that is generous, abundant, and self-sacrificing, but also these speakers will be damned if a woman offering so much of herself will be ignored or erased. This is a beautiful collection that envisions the end of muses and imagines what reciprocal and empowered devotion might make possible." —Kathryn Nuernberger
“‘I knew I had to go back under,’ writes Laura Read, as she dives once again into the night-black waters of the opening poem of her second full-length collection, Dresses from the Old Country. ‘Someone was down there / who had to be saved.’ And who drifts in depths? Who requires rescue? The dreamy, desirous girl the poet once was? The sweet, sad, sometimes wicked woman she is? An old, ridiculous boyfriend? Her son grown so suddenly into a man? I'll tell you, reader, I think it's us—you and me. Truly, I haven't been so knocked out, so heart-struck by a book of poems in a good long while. ‘No one told me this about love,’ Read writes, near the end of this astonishing collection, and I think, Me neither, me neither! Until now, at least.” —Joe Wilkins, author of The Mountain and the Fathers and When We Were Birds
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2018