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Missing Persons

Hilary S. JacqminPublication: March 15th, 2017

£9.99

The opening poems of Missing Persons, Hilary S. Jacqmin’s lyrical first collection, explore the streetcar suburbs of Northern Ohio through a series of comic and caustic vignettes. The book’s second half intersects with the larger world to consider questions of empire, loss, and autonomy. Moving through time and between places and personas, the poems shift from imperial India to post-meltdown Chernobyl to Sabbathday Lake, the last active Shaker community. An abandoned sideshow fat lady mourns her lost love. The vanished poet Weldon Kees, presumed dead, reemerges in the frozen Midwest. And an alienated Jughead Jones searches for meaning in modern-day, food-obsessed Japan. Richly detailed, linguistically deft, and employing both formal and free verse, Missing Persons is a dazzling debut.

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ISBN: 978-1-904130-87-1 Extent: 80pp Category: Tag:

Missing Persons

Missing Persons is one of the best debut poetry collections that I’ve read in years. Jacqmin’s poems are richly varied in syntax, diction, and form. They’re also funny, and at times surprisingly hard-edged—but whether Jacqmin is writing about dry drunks, a fastidious Latin teacher, or a grown-up Jughead adrift in Tokyo, she never allows herself to affect an attitude of being superior to her subject matter. Instead, she patiently, faithfully seeks out real mysteries and works to articulate them in all their strangeness. – James Arthur

I admire the intelligent ultra talk of Hilary Jacqmin’s virtuosic and revealing poems. A full life is lived on these pages, and it flickers with light and dark. – Henri Cole

In Missing Persons, memory is a cabinet of curiosities filled with tiny figures carved from bone, scimitars, ticking oven timers, sugar skulls. These are poems that teach us how the ordinary may be transformed; a nightgown stained with rabbit urine becomes ‘yellow shantung,’ a beer gut ‘softly beautiful,’ women’s bodies ‘curved like wine bottles.’ Jacqmin has a particular gift for portraits in miniature. Young loves, Girl Scouts, sex ed teachers, a father, a mother—all are rendered lovely and interesting through the delicate treatment of the imagination. And, as with any wunderkammer, we want to return to the glimmering rooms of these poems again and again, discovering each time we visit something new to hold and behold. – Jehanne Dubrow

Jacqmin’s poetry displays a wonderfully rich diction that conveys her keen eye for defining detail. Always in the mix there is her agile wit, typically gentle but mischievous too. Sometimes things are darker, but then compassionate too. Jacqmin’s world ranges from a mostly predictable upper Midwest, to arresting scenes in art and literature, to the Russia of Chernobyl, to the seaport dives of downtown Baltimore. In all of these settings there are characters who choose their paths by accident or misconception, bumping their ways along as we do and continuing in ways we admire. There is a wised-up kindness and exuberance to this work that makes Jacqmin’s poems the best of company, well-spoken guests always invited back. – Wyatt Prunty

The Hunting Horns

When father bought a battered single horn
from the termite-riddled Antique Mart
on Mayfield Road, we feared his brain
had sponged inside the slide-grease jar of his skull.
Most men his age took up eccentric hobbies
of a different sort: sloe gin, hot rods,
or divorcées. My father screwed
his Farkas mouthpiece to the pipe and blew—
such tinned, half-fretful notes, the lamplight winced.
Poor dad: an aero-acoustician,
born with a clingstone ear; the physics
of the exponential bell evaded him,
although his Wunderkammer swelled with instruments.
His double horn—a Conn 8D,
restored—bayed out the mournful overture
to Handel’s “Water Music” like a hound;
three rotors in his nickel Yamaha,
his brass collection’s only splurge,
froze up. He left it coiled on the buffet,
a lacquer nautilus reflecting mother’s
strung-up lusterware: chipped plates inscribed
with speckled hinds and fireback pheasant hunts,
each captive scene transposed, then flayed.
Years passed. When we could bear no more, we sank him
in the cellar, perched on a Hepplewhite chair,
spit valve and practice mute in hand,
lips pursed in swollen embouchure.
Scales startled from his horn like wayward quail.

 

Wedding Album

You say “I do” on the Main Street Lot, beneath
the span of Brooklyn Bridge. I clench my teeth
and fake a Miss America grin as you,
my ex, become conventional, a True

Romance case study in lace and vintage pearls,
my last lost cause. I think of the gamine girls
I kissed in college—Pantene-haired, tattooed,
their skin scrubbed raw with tea tree oil—such crude

replacements. You smoked Troyas, championed Ayn Rand,
sang backup in a Bowie cover band
from Latvia. My senior year, half-drunk
on single malt and boxed white wine, we sunk

onto the loveseat at your grandma’s house.
As “Modern Love” blared, I undid your blouse
and fumbled with your Maidenform, unsure
of what came next, too flushed, too amateur,

to run my hand up your tanned legs. I played
the novice that brief summer: a secret, staid,
and steady girlfriend. In August, you returned
to school. You dated—men, you wrote. I yearned

for you for years. At your wedding reception, I sign
the guest book. Beside my name, I scrawl Be mine.
I hide out in the rented photo booth,
feeding rolls of tarnished quarters in. The truth,

I know, is that you’re gone for good, a wife,
quite happily domestic. Only my life
burns out. The camera flashes, catching my face
in every washed-out frame. My features blurred. Erased.

Excerpts

The Hunting Horns

When father bought a battered single horn
from the termite-riddled Antique Mart
on Mayfield Road, we feared his brain
had sponged inside the slide-grease jar of his skull.
Most men his age took up eccentric hobbies
of a different sort: sloe gin, hot rods,
or divorcées. My father screwed
his Farkas mouthpiece to the pipe and blew—
such tinned, half-fretful notes, the lamplight winced.
Poor dad: an aero-acoustician,
born with a clingstone ear; the physics
of the exponential bell evaded him,
although his Wunderkammer swelled with instruments.
His double horn—a Conn 8D,
restored—bayed out the mournful overture
to Handel’s “Water Music” like a hound;
three rotors in his nickel Yamaha,
his brass collection’s only splurge,
froze up. He left it coiled on the buffet,
a lacquer nautilus reflecting mother’s
strung-up lusterware: chipped plates inscribed
with speckled hinds and fireback pheasant hunts,
each captive scene transposed, then flayed.
Years passed. When we could bear no more, we sank him
in the cellar, perched on a Hepplewhite chair,
spit valve and practice mute in hand,
lips pursed in swollen embouchure.
Scales startled from his horn like wayward quail.

 

Wedding Album

You say “I do” on the Main Street Lot, beneath
the span of Brooklyn Bridge. I clench my teeth
and fake a Miss America grin as you,
my ex, become conventional, a True

Romance case study in lace and vintage pearls,
my last lost cause. I think of the gamine girls
I kissed in college—Pantene-haired, tattooed,
their skin scrubbed raw with tea tree oil—such crude

replacements. You smoked Troyas, championed Ayn Rand,
sang backup in a Bowie cover band
from Latvia. My senior year, half-drunk
on single malt and boxed white wine, we sunk

onto the loveseat at your grandma’s house.
As “Modern Love” blared, I undid your blouse
and fumbled with your Maidenform, unsure
of what came next, too flushed, too amateur,

to run my hand up your tanned legs. I played
the novice that brief summer: a secret, staid,
and steady girlfriend. In August, you returned
to school. You dated—men, you wrote. I yearned

for you for years. At your wedding reception, I sign
the guest book. Beside my name, I scrawl Be mine.
I hide out in the rented photo booth,
feeding rolls of tarnished quarters in. The truth,

I know, is that you’re gone for good, a wife,
quite happily domestic. Only my life
burns out. The camera flashes, catching my face
in every washed-out frame. My features blurred. Erased.