For this week’s edition of Feature Friday, we are pleased to bring you an excerpt from poet and playwright Shannon Bramer’s highly anticipated new poetry book, Precious Energy. In Bramer’s fourth full collection—and first in over a decade—we find vibrantly sad, peculiar, and often funny poems about domestic life, motherhood, and the baffled child that remains within us all even as we grow up and into whatever person we keep trying to become. In a recent interview with the International Festival of Authors, Bramer said that this book “is a document of my dreams, failures, excesses and loves.”
Of Precious Energy, poet and artist Robin Richardson says that, “Shannon Bramer writes with a candor that is as clever as it is devastating. Through masterfully crafted studies of the everyday, Bramer transcends, in the manner of Lydia Davis, drawing the domestic into utter sublimity.” Novelist Andrew Kaufman adds, “With this collection Bramer has redeemed modern poetry. Precious Energy is a must for anyone who has ever had their clothes drenched in a child’s vomit, seen their cell phone as the enemy, momentarily failed to recognize their lover or wondered what the point of all this is.”
We hope you enjoy this excerpt from Precious Energy. Happy reading!
WHITE PAPER BIRDS
Sometimes you have to breastfeed your kid
even when you don’t feel like breastfeeding
your kid. Near the end of her feed she pulls off
to look at you with her round eyes and you don’t
look away. Sometimes you have to sing
your kid to sleep even when you don’t feel up
to any song. When you put her down she
cries, she always cries. You pick her up when
you are a piece of glass. You kiss her
and kiss her and pick her up and put her down
and kiss her again like a wolf.
You are a real mother.
You don’t kick or break any toys
on purpose. And you don’t scream and you don’t weep.
Your baby grows. You’ve got a shiny red shovel
for all your shitty feelings.
You’ve got a daughter with a broken lip
where she’s been biting down.
The house is full of nests. Tiny piles of torn
newsprint, a million crumpled swans
swimming down the stairs. Another life
folded inside each paper bird.
ABOUT A WEDDING
Pete should have been invited. There were poets. Customers. My mother
wore a tuxedo. We had to watch our numbers, so no children. No Pete.
I felt a bit sloppy. My dress had spaghetti straps that kept slipping
from my shoulders. We had a rectangle for a table instead of a circle, which
still bothers me when I think about it. It was October. I don’t regret
the chrysanthemums or the devilled eggs sprinkled with cumin; I wish
I got to have one. The church was a choice, like folk music. Like Tom
Waits. I’m happy to remember dancing with my two fathers at once,
because now I have none. No Pete of the horses and trees. My stepsisters
refused to show up. The chocolate cake tasted like a funeral home.
One of my bridesmaids puked in the limo. None got on my dress
but a bit got in my hair. That’s how it goes with weddings. Pete should
have been invited and Harriet, clever Harriet, shouldn’t have been
there at all.
THE COLD FEEL OF THE FORKS AND KNIVES
At 6:35 in the morning it’s all in the sound
of the cutlery. How will he handle it?
If there is any roughness he’s just hurried; don’t
worry. Things will get easier. My son
likes to throw his plastic cup. We need to let him
touch things he might break.
Even me. I don’t want to think about
my husband’s hands
or the cold feel of the forks and knives.
I’m afraid of what comes next. I listen
to him empty the dishwasher.
It’s a wonder some people are not sad.
He’s pouring coffee now. He’s on
the stairs with our third child
and coming in to wake me up.
Purchase your copy of Precious Energy here.
Upcoming events with Shannon Bramer:
Word on the Street Toronto presents This Time it’s Personal, with Shannon Bramer, author of Precious Energy. Also with Michael Dennis. Hosted by Susan G. Cole.
Sunday, September 24 at 12:30 pm
Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON
Poet and playwright Shannon Bramer lives in Toronto. Previous collections of poetry include: suitcases and other poems (winner of the 2000 Hamilton and Region Best Book Award), scarf, and The Refrigerator Memory. She has also published chapbooks with above/ground press and BookThug, and regularly conducts poetry workshops for students of all ages. An illustrated collection of poems for very young children is forthcoming from Groundwood Books in the spring of 2019. Precious Energy is her first full-length collection in over a decade.