Beast by Frances Justine Post
Augury Books, 2014; 79 pp
Reviewed by Analicia Sotello
I forgot the human heart was a beast, or maybe I didn’t ever know, until I read Frances Justine Post’s debut collection of poems. In Beast, a woman finds love, loses it, and calls it back again like a wild animal reclaiming its territory. The collection is laid out into four sections, “four tough little mouths, / inhaling, exhaling with a liquid / mechanical flap,” and with each section, we get to experience depth after depth of human beastliness (19). Post’s twelve persona poems—Self Portrait as a Pack of Hounds, as a Witch, as the Shadow of a Volcano, as Antarctica, and others—describe what it is like to feel animal with heartache, so much so that the heartache has become a long-term disaster, a threat to the natural environment.
Instead of trying to escape, the speaker inhabits that space, singing and scolding as necessary—which is all the time: “Like a bird who’s hit a window finds her way / to a bush—it was the opposite. I came alive…” (42). The speaker is not afraid to make fun of herself either, since she’s not actually afraid of anything anymore. In Pastoral, she writes:
You dreamed you were chasing a horse through Frances
Marion Forest. I’ve come to understand all your lies
are like wishes. Freud says horses represent love
in dreams: I looked it up (44).
What’s unusual about these contemporary love poems is that they have a clear, if complicated, resolution—to consume rather than be consumed. In Self-Portrait as Cannibal, the final poem of the collection, the speaker finally knows what animals know, that we need to eat to stay alive:
I stuck my little dagger in you until the juices ran clear.
Your chest, empty where your heart was. I pulled
it from its tethers, placed it in the freezer, cubed.
Every night, I drop a piece in my pinot grigio;
one is in there now, bleeding out a sweet cassis
How does it feel to be an object, a collection really?
Every piece of you has its place (73).
When you feel like reading a courageous book of poems with a good glass of wine, read Beast. It will do all the fighting for you.