Wolf Lake

after “Wolf Lake” by Matt Rader

It was down that road he brought me, still
in the trunk of his car. I won’t say it felt right,
but it did feel expected. The way you know
your blood can spring like a hydrant.
That September, the horseflies were murder
in the valley. I’d come home to visit the family,
get in a couple of weeks of free food, hooked up
with a guy I’d known when I was a kid and things
went bad. When he cut me, I remember
looking down, my blood surprising as paper
snakes leaping from a tin. He danced me
around his basement apartment, dumped me
on the chesterfield, sat down beside me, and lit
a smoke. He seemed a black bear in the gloam,
shoulders rounded under his clothes,
so I tried to remember everything I knew
about black bears: whistle while you walk… carry
bells…
if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you…
play dead. Everything slowed. I’ll tell you a secret.
It’s hard to kill a girl. You’ve got to cut her bad
and you’ve got to cut her right, and the boy had done neither,
Pain rose along the side of my body, like light.
I lay very still while he smoked beside me: this boy
I’d camped with every summer since we were
twelve,
the lake so quiet you could hear the sound
of a heron skim the water at dusk, or the sound
of a boy’s breathing. I came-to in the trunk of his car,
gravel kicking up against the frame, dust coming in
through the cracks. It was dark. I was thirsty.
I couldn’t move my hands or legs,
The pain was still around. I think I was tied.
We drove that way for a long time before
the Chrysler finally slowed, then stopped. Sound
of gravel crunching under tires. I could smell the lake,
a place where, as kids, we’d come to swim
and know we’d never be seen. Logs grew
up from that lakebed. All those black bones
rising from black water. I remember,
we’d always smelled of lake water and of sex
by the end of the day, and there was a tape of Patsy
Cline we always liked to sing to on our way out —
which is what I thought we’d be doing that
September
afternoon. That, or smoking up in his garage.

You know, you hear about the Body
all the time: They found the Body…
the Body was found… and then you are one.
Someone once told me the place had been
a valley, before the dam, before the town.
But that was a long time ago. When the engine
stopped,
I heard the silver sound of keys in the lock
and then I was up on his shoulders, tasting blood.
I think he said my name. I think he walked
toward the woods.

Set in Anyvalley, North America, Home of Sudden Service centres around the experiences of young people growing up in the suburbs. The contrast of elegant poetic forms with the colloquial language of suburban teens makes for a compelling and engaging achievement.

Bachinsky creates a gothic landscape that will be familiar to anyone who’s visited the suburbs. Here, young Brownies dance, learn to sew and get badges in a series of eerie rituals, and small-town girls settle down early. Murder, lust, teen pregnancy and a young man’s disappearance are all discussed with a matter-of-fact, dispassionate voice.

But this world is not without humour and hope. Home of Sudden Service concludes with “Drive,” a series of fifteen sonnets about the poet’s trip across Canada with her sister—and out of the setting of their youth.

Nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry.

Links:

Praise at Nightwood
Reviews at Nightwood
Review at Quill and Quire

Praise

"A classic… "

—Nancy Pagh, Western Washington University

"Imagining T.S. Eliot returned, in a Canadian woman’s body, as a punk rocker, takes you only partway to grasping Bachinsky… Her project, in Home of Sudden Service, is to explore the voices of the disenfranchised… Elizabeth Bachinsky is one of those rare poets capable of negotiating poetic forms with rigour and testing their limits, while never losing sight of the strange, dark music of what it means to be human. "

—Jeanette Lynes, The Globe and Mail

"It’s rare to encounter a book of poetry that so nimbly balances accessibility and craft as this second collection by Elizabeth Bachinsky… Bachinsky portrays the struggles of the young with a skillful mix of ironic detachment and saucer-eyed immediacy…"

—Stewart Cole, Quill and Quire

"[Home of Sudden Service] packs a wallop of teenage angst, boredom and risky sexiness…an unusual and highly accomplished use of form by a young poet on the subject of loose girls and the freeway culture of malls, necking, cruelty and tragedy."

—Hannah Main-Van der Kamp, BC Bookworld

"Bachinsky makes the combination of 'low' style or material with “high” forms seem not just easy and natural but aesthetically and poetically meaningful."

—Malcolm Woodland, University of Toronto Quarterly

"A major influence…"

John K. Samson, The Weakerthans