Slapstick · Taylor Liljegren

Slapstick · Taylor Liljegren

In her impressive first collection, Liljegren retells the Lucy stories from the iconic tv show, revealing depths and a darker side behind the slapstick. With great skill and exquisite language, Liljegren takes us through a series of episodes and imagined therapy sessions, complete with dream analysis, a Rorshach test, role reversal, and free association - associations that lead always to Ethel, and the endurance of women’s friendship. Liljegren reveals the courage behind the humor, the power dynamics of marriage, the conflict between the good wife and the professional woman, of how we become the roles we play. We love Lucy, these poems say, because we know she is us.

Cheryl Savageau, author of Dirtroad Home and Mother/Land


Excerpts from Slapstick

Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her

Engrossed in a mystery novel,
Lucy becomes convinced
that Ricky is planning to kill her.
Ethel reads her cards, confirms
her suspicions.

That night, Lucy dreams herself into a long knife:

whenever dream-Ricky touches her dream-body,
his dream-hands bleed.

In the morning after he leaves for work,
she lights a cigarette in bed, smacks
at an itch beneath her pin curls,

“I always do that”, she says out loud,
“I always make him into God.”


Lucy is Enceinte

Lucy finds out she is pregnant,
but Ricky is too busy for her
to tell him.
She decides to use a song request at his club
as a way to give him the news.

When he realizes his wife is having a baby,
Ricky forgets his own name.
The lyrics to every song he’s ever known vanish.

There is only her
and the affection he feels towards her.
‘I love Lucy’, he will tell anyone
who listens.
He makes her name into a title.
He makes her name into a song
that everyone can sing.


Rorschach

Now that –

that is definitely a pair of bongo drums,
or his own heart-sound booming against my hollow.

It’s impossible to say.

Here is what I know:
whatever it is, it is firstly him.

He, the man who found the song of my name

Lucy

first low,
languid,
loose lips about to kiss before

the slice,

the syllable softened –
that snaking sound singing

through the front door
just before
things are about to get ugly,
and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get out of this alone,

Lucy

I’m home.


Word Association

Friend?
Ethel.

Friend. Ethel.
Ethel back door friend,

early morning curlers, coffee, kerchief friend,
Ethel bosom buddy, blonde – but still smarter than me.

Ethel Bridge games: my bridge Ethel holding me
thick armed on shoulders.

Ethel mouthful of chocolates.
Ethel mouth always full,

stretching after me, for what I’ve forgotten,
or lost.

Ethel lost in joke. Ethel pause for laughter.
Ethel wait to talk. Ethel “No”

Ethel “Maybe”
Ethel “Never Again”

Ethel again, and again
Ethel always here. Ethel always will be.
Always.


Taylor Liljegren is a poet and educator from Central Massachusetts. She received her undergraduate degree in English Literature & Secondary Education from Lesley University, and is a candidate for her Masters in English Literature through the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Her work has previously been published in Best Indie Lit New England, Vol. 2 (Black Key Press) as well as Nixes Mate Review: Anthology 2016-2017.

Copyright © 2018 Taylor Liljegren

Cover photograph from the collection of the author.

ISBN 978-1-949279-02-3

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.


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