Someone Else’s Wedding Vows by Bianca Stone
Octopus Books/Tin House Books, 2014; 78 pp
Reviewed by Analicia Sotelo


This book of astronomically good poems is written with a straightforward, metered gravity that will immediately let you in. If you read this collection quickly, as I did, know that you’ll always be grounded, even though each image is like a little planet that hovers and then propels itself away, only to return later, when you’re looking for something to eat in the fridge. Frank, jubilant and realistic, the speaker in these poems takes ordinary moments (a wedding, drinking with friends, listening to Judy Garland) and gives them a spark of heavy thought:

I stand looking at the milk, the rack, the maple,
and I realize grief wants me to stay
a child, negotiating a stream of atoms,

picking flowers. Grief wants me in good condition.
Grief wants me to remember everything. Imperfect. Clear. (15).

Grief, but also love and sex, binds these poems together, relieving “this human brain that cannot assume the trust position” (14). And maybe because emotions, both dark and light, are universal, many of these poems are written with an anachronistic exactitude that makes the 21st century seem like every century:

there are those who believe
Jesus never kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth
with his great, red, pharmaceutical tongue;
and there are those whose bodies
are perfectly made for erotic positions

in the seamless electricity of stark apartments (26).

There wasn’t a poem in this collection that didn’t give me a sense of the “monstrous ordinary knowing” that exists in every one of our lives, and for that I’m grateful (34). Read this masterful first collection to see “the weird clouds over Long Island at the classic wedding” and then:

That grief walks barefoot, eternally,
in the local Grand Union grocery,
filling its basket, stimulated
by each regret;
that it knows my teenage ghost (32, 15).