The Real-Time Review League reads nods by Carrie Lorig

by Carrie Lorig
Magic Helicopter Press, 2013
48 pages / $7  Buy from Magic Helicopter Press




July 25, 2013


I read through the first half of nods., like we said. I’m happy to be doing it in two pieces, as the book leaves me a lot to process.

For me, what comes first here are impressions. Looking into the dark and seeing shapes, but waiting for your eyes to adjust before you can make out bodies and what they are doing.

I read the first “Scatterstate” and thought, if I had to define this term, it would be:

scatterstate: noun, immersion in repetition and variation of words; a swelling up of words, which become, in addition to their actual definitions, their sounds and the feeling of hearing/thinking them over and over; an inundation

When it is too much to think about, I am left with hearing and feeling and drawing conclusions from those sensations. And because of THE PAGE and her use of space on THE PAGE, sometimes it is too much. I think she knows this. Because it’s not like eating too much ice cream; it’s like tumbling down too much mountain, or hiding under too many houses. It surprises and excites me, too, when out of this inundation, narrative is born, which happens here.

So much here depends on unlikely pairings of words—sometimes as separate, paired words, and sometimes as compounded words. A few of my favorite compounds from p17: “mangovault,” “niagarafalafel,” “boozyoveralls,” “meatbowl.”  This chapbook asks us to wonder, what happens when you push two, separate, unlike things together?  How do we make sense of that? And in that way, it is a painstaking immersion in the messy business of sex and love. Preparing to leave for a long vacation without Phil tomorrow. I want to go and I don’t want to go. It feels, sometimes, like we are always orbiting the same thing, but at different rates. I’m being dramatic—everything is fine, of course, we’re very happy. But love is never easy or clean.

Last night we ate waffles filled with curried chicken from a food truck. It makes me wonder, if waffles can be a vehicle, what else can?

Last week, I sent Tyler Gobble a link to your work and he said it reminded him of Carrie’s. I hadn’t read much of Carrie’s work, but reading it now, I see what he means. I am so seriouseager to hear what you think.



July 30, 2013

Dear Caro,

I hope you are having such a wonderful trip with your sister and nephew! Minneapolis has been incredible. We have seen so many friends, and late twenties looks good on everyone. Watching them relax into themselves is making me feel more relaxed too. I now have the urge to kick anxiety once and for all. Getting an MFA in our early twenties was MISLEADING to say the least. The moment I calmed down, I noticed a LOT of people DON’T have an anxiety disorder. I don’t want one either. It is taking up my time. I’ll keep my phobias though. My life is sort of built around avoiding fish and vomit. (Walking around Lake Nokomis, I SAW A DEAD FISH THE SIZE OF MY THIGH).

Anyway, calm is what I want to work out with nods. I read myself into a frenzy, and the frenzy was, I DON’T HAVE A PLAN TO SEE CARRIE YET. One thing I forget about Carrie, and about Nick too, is that they are CALM. I called her, and even her “hello” was grounded. I’m not sure her phone recognized my number. I wonder if folks can read my anxiety-energy from my hello??. It usually either means are you a schemer?? or are you mad at me??. What I’m learning on this trip is that I don’t think people are mad at me. And what I’m trying to say here, is that Carrie is a keel. Before I called her, I chattered my way around the first “scatterstate,” loving it, getting RATTLED by “noiseflowers.” Getting hurt by “i’ll let you know if i hear anything more from you.” I underlined and circled words, sentences… There is an energy here, and there is an energy in Carrie’s calm. I get excitable talking to her, and I don’t get anxious. We made plans to see each other.

When I hung up and hit page two, I wasn’t in racket anymore, I was in flow.  If a word or line rattled me, it didn’t jut out anymore, just twinkled around a rock in the river. “And my sunburnt eyes are touching each other with this beautiful delivery of flow hurt…” There is anxiety too: “you have to find a feeling / and hurt its tiny dead / glow with your hurt”. But instead of the anxiety being some illness in Carrie, it is one that she creates and controls. There is energy spinning in her—and it might be just hers, or she might be open enough to deal with my own.

On the phone she and I talked about sharing the sex we write in poems with our parents. I love your thought about the forced merging of concepts (FUELBOOGER) as being like sex and love. I need more people to talk about sex that way. I need more people to talk about sex in every way other than bikini waxes and butt jokes and have you tried….. And so yes, the lights are low in this book, and my eyes never become natural. This groping for vision and relying on sound become mebumbling with someone else’s body in the dark, trying to figure out how it works. I’m thinking about theories of touch and sound. She is building those two experiences without IMAGE. I’m not listening for the pain cattle, I just hear everything. How is this happening?? (NOT a rhetorical question!)

Have your parents read poems you’ve written about sex? (OR WORSE YOUR IN-LAWS?) Wait, do you have poems about sex? Is that what “and spark / and spark” means? (I don’t have your book in front of me—did I quote that right?)

Today is Carrie’s birthday! I’m off to practice my poem for the reading tonight (she is hosting), and to buy her flowers that look like an animal (Nick’s idea).

Love to you guys!


P.S. I’m reading with Abraham Smith, and I’m terrified. Not colonoscopy terrified, but on the spectrum.

P.P.S. I want to meet Tyler.


July 31, 2013


It is morning on day three of my trip with my sister and THE TEENAGERS. The teenagers are still sleeping and my sister and I are both doing work on our computers. Only her work is something important, with lots of papers laid out around her on the shag carpet (something she will be paid for), and my work is this. Otherwise, we are essentially the same. On day one, my nephew’s girlfriend saw her first waterfall. Yesterday, my nephew, terrified by horses, went horseback riding for the first time. It’s exciting to remember that I can do new things, too. So far, though, I am steeped in familiarity. This is the home where I played in the summertime. This is my first forest.  I know where every berry bush is and where long-gone berry bushes used to be. I can point to every place I’ve seen a bear. I think there is value in the familiar, too, though, new is always romantic. Yesterday, my nephew rode Charlie, his girlfriend rode Walter, my sister rode Maude, a slow-moving and stubborn mare, and I rode Shelby.

re: SEX IN POEMS! I don’t write sex directly, really. I hint at, suggest to, I robe it in something. Also, sometimes I write things where I don’t mean sex, but that’s what gets read. One particular instance is a poem during the MFA that had a lot of cohabitation and kitchen and tilapia in the freezer and it had a line that went something like, “we are steel mixing bowls, one resting inside the other,” and Gale was like oh, yeah and I was like oh, I just meant a set of mixing bowls, but I can see where you’re getting that.  But because the sex is usually implicit, I don’t feel too nervous about parents or in-laws or anyone. But PLEASE tell me what you and Carrie talked about in that regard!  You two actually write the sex, so you have actual things to say, I’m sure.

In this second half of nods., I am continuing to roll in (roil in?) that same brainspace as before. The book creates a pocket for me to settle down in. I hear; I feel; I process best I can.  But, still, I don’t think she means for it all to get processed. Or I am deficient, a lazy reader. I have a new thought about the more spare pages (with only a few words on each). I find them, yes, as a relief, a welcomed pause, but I also have another experience. Their emptiness recalls the fullness of the other pages—it makes the effect of the other pages CLEARER. They are functioning through DIFFERENCE and what that recalls, like closing your eyes and still seeing the red burn of lamps projected against your eyelids. OR (warning—a vomit tale), once I vomited a bile-y mess and the water I drank afterward tasted sweet sweet sweet, the bitter spectrum of my taste buds having been used up. Like that.

Another new thought:  the quote Carrie uses from Edmund Jabes says, “There is no such thing (spoken or written) as a dialogue between persons.” This breakdown is one of love (broken love?), yes, but also one of survival. My monologue competes with your monologue, because I need to be heard. Yours and you, too.  At our most animal, we just want to survive, to procreate. We want to have the right traits. We temper that, though, the animal. We learn to talk to each other, and write letters to each other. I am bigger than the animal inside me in that I really want to hear what you need to say. You means you, Kelin, and all my friends, too. I want to know, too, what you think of this idea, in relation to your work (and Carrie’s, to an extent) that have multiple voices competing for attention. What happens when you manufacture both of the competing monologues. And where does that put the reader. Thoughts, my love?  “i have questions near the bottom about love.”

Last, I’ll leave you with my favorite—a touch down point in the middle of the inundation, which Carrie is caring enough to afford us, periodically:

I can’t taste, but right now,
I’m saying you should live here with me.
I’m saying you should eat skins with me.
I’m saying we should play GO FISH with almonds.

Do you have an almond?
Do you have an almond?


P.S. Has your reading happened yet?


August 16, 2013


I am so, so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner. I missed your email entirely. July is such a strange month. Your email came the DAY after I sent mine, and I sent mine the day before I left for Rocky Mountain National Park, and I finished nods. in the airport on our way back to Minneapolis before we found out about a storm delay. It was, to borrow a word from Leora, a RIOT in a RIOTING place. That day was a bad day for children. nods. isn’t about children exactly (everything is probably a little about children), but it’s echoed in my mind with the noises of two airport children. I was doing my airport-exercise (fitness walking through the concourse, the epic Concourse B, if you’re familiar with DIA), and down in the Southwest gates, a little boy, maybe five or six, was running ahead of me. Lots of children were doing their airport-exercise, just running or running the moving walkways. The boy’s mother, I’m assuming, darted out in front of me with the pounding stride of serious loss, and ripped him over by the arm. DON’T YOU EVER RUN FROM ME. He screamed I want my Dad I want my Dad. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to walk the whole concourse, and by the time I’d lapped back to the woman and the boy, they were standing with a man and a girl, what I would otherwise assume to be a happy, white, upper-middle class family on vacation, except the boy had lost control entirely, screaming I want my Dad so hard I thought he might vomit. The concourse rang with it. I wouldn’t put “I want my Dad” in caps because it wasn’t directed at anyone. He knew he had no audience.

It was the kind of storm delay that happens every half hour. We’ll get word here in another few minutes. The ground crew has been suspended until the lighting stops. If you are one of the folks connecting to Amsterdam out of MPLS, you may want to deplane. There are no open hotel rooms in MPLS, and we have rooms here in Denver. A woman came up to a flight attendant near me, and whispered with concern. I told myself nobody vomited. Michael and I were playing iPad games and reading. We hadn’t realized we’d been on the plane for two hours. I looked up and saw a cop. I decided to watch, whole eyes and not worry about the staring rule because whatever. The big, male gate agent was blocking the aisle to the back of the plane, and the cop was standing near the exit. No one was moving. I asked the flight attendant near me, also whole eyes, what was going on, and he said that the white man sitting with the sunglasses on his head was drunk, and using awful language. He was being asked to leave the plane. The man got up, and a high slow cry started from the middle seat. The flight attendant said the really awful thing was he was flying with this little daughter. The man got his bag down, and held the hand of a maybe three year old in a pink dress as he was escorted off the plane.

So, nods. means something else to me now. When I read it, it was a rattle of people and their noises and their pain and their pain’s noises (“This is maybe when the noises drink up”), and in the din of all of that two people figuring out what they want from each other. I was thinking of sex, I was thinking of calm. Here is a narrative I built with rapid-moment underlining:

i’ll let you know if i hear anything more from you.
boy cow, i move across the plain under sheets of swill encasing you.
i amaze to barely understand what it is i try to love you about.
i smell like space.                     space, that’s all i’m fucking right now.
for you to be warm inside,       i will be warm inside.
i looked up everything you tagged  /  and sucked it.

Post airport children, this narrative of a relationship, of any individual adult, has totally fallen back. I can’t remember anything I thought to answer our questions. All I hear is the pain cattle, the echo of the ending mantra: “mmhmmmm mmhmmmm mmhmmmm.” I still felt the sex, but, the focus became the dire audacity that adults can have–that adults think it’s okay to play god and make a baby. I hear the pain of that. I just learned about vaginitis–an itis where the vagina that clenchs shut involuntarily. (Perhaps this is what that ass senator from Ohio thought happened?)

Ultimately, what I’m leaving with is voice-echos of someone dealing with pain, and the company is so welcome. The echos work just like you said, as receptors get used up, the sound changes. After closing the book, the voices work together in echoes. The competition is the bounce and cycle of human sounds. “noise was created by creatures in order to move.” In thinking about that first kid, I don’t know if the sounds have an audience more important than the will to move.

i throw cows         as far as i can into cows
Do you replace this or do you replace this?
remember when i went to the apartment wrong?
how my breath holds back a scary me.
i love,     and my pain puffs are forever.
i am     a deluge. i am a doe lose.
no, let me. let me. let me do this. i can do this.

I don’t mean to put a bow on this, BUT, I’m sitting in the Smith College Library right now, eating Justin’s maple-almond butter with a spoon. You know how they have an exhibit outside the periodical room? Right now it is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of The Bell Jar. I’m still scared to pick up that book again. The tiling in the bathroom is OLD, and I often don’t put my shoes on before dashing in there. Maybe I’ve stepped where she stepped is what I’m trying to say. There are photos of her with her kids. I could do a study of pain, and analyze Lorig and Plath. I am SO HAPPY that isn’t my job right now.

My job right now is getting ready to go back to school. And I’m so lucky that is a happy task. Are you ready for the summer to end??

I’m sorry about the indulgence of this letter. I know you understand about being scared for children.

I miss you all like crazy. I put up a picture of us from Anne and Matt’s wedding.

I hoped that today I’d feel ready to start the end-of-summer work. Instead I’m sad that the summer-golden time read these books with you is over. I know we will still, but school just screws with poetry in ways. Maybe the next time we talk we can talk about this, and how to protect ourselves.

Love you so much,



Caroline Cabrera and Kelin Loe met during their time in the MFA Program at UMass-Amherst and through their work for Slope Editions. Life has moved them the country apart, and they write and read to stay close. Kelin Loe is the author of the book These Are The Gloria Stories (Factory Hollow Press, forthcoming 2014), and Caroline Cabrera is the author of Flood Bloom (H_NGM_N Books, 2013). Their Real-Time Review of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather was published earlier this year in Octopus Magazine.

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