SOMEONE ELSE’S WEDDING VOWS
Bianca Stone

Tin House Books, 2014

Bianca Stone has a “mind like a bottle of loose glitter—,” and the poems in Someone Else’s Wedding Vows can barely contain this mercurial, explosive energy.

Stone’s debut contains stunning, often surreal images: “When I shaved my legs it was the sound of dogs barking,” she writes in one poem. In another, an orange peel gets tossed at a moon “that recedes into the clouds like an iridescent testicle / into the holy lap of the atmosphere.” Stone moves recklessly and wildly:

You kissed me under the
Dow Jones Industrial average.
You kissed me in the elephant cage. I said
I love you like a clam. I am asking you
to touch me here and here
and possibly pay for my meal.

Sometimes the poems’ restlessness tends towards anxiety. In the title poem, the speaker observes a wedding reception: here is “[t]he crowd frightened of what it means / having O’Hara’s avocado salad poem read” before they get busy taking photographs, “practicing someone else’s dutiful permanence” as the “sun drapes its modern dread across everything.” What kind of promises can be made in this precarious world? The title of one poem—“Because You Love You Come Apart”—is in some ways Stone’s answer.

The speaker in Someone Else’s Wedding Vows is bewildered by contemporary urban existence, from the Statue of Liberty with “her head full of strangers” to “the collapse of the Lehman Brothers” and the “lending and trading of our bodies in the darkest rooms of Brooklyn…” as well as by larger tragedies—loss, grief, an absent father, cancer “growing planets” in stomachs. “Nothing bad can touch this life / I haven’t already imagined,” admits one poem early on.

Still, Stone reminds us we must “invite our love to the table / to eat what’s left.” The final section of the book opens with the poem, “Monsieur,” which takes place almost entirely in one apartment. Over the course of this 21-page poem, the speaker considers her lover—the “anonymous audiovisual enemy” in his video game, the notes he writes in the margins of student papers, his body position in sleep—which serves to illuminate the distance between them. Even those closest to us remain strangers, though none so strange as ourselves. Stone reminds us of this as she commands her lover, her reader:

There is a herd in me
You hold me
You hold us all