Reversible by Marisa Crawford
Switchback Books, 2017
Maybe it’s a coincidence that one day, after reading part of Marisa Crawford’s Reversible in one of my favorite coffee shops, the Black Crowes song “She Talks to Angels” was the first to come on the radio on my drive home. Another day, same routine, except this time, Cracker’s song “Low” poured from my car’s speakers. I mention this because these two songs make appearances in Reversible. Actually, a lot of music appears in this book—so much that the extensive Notes contain more references to bands, lyrics, and song titles than anything else. Music forms the bone structure of Reversible; many of the poems revolve around situations in which Crawford’s speaker interacts with others or reflects on her own life with music acting as a catalyst. With radiant detail, Crawford documents a ’90s girlhood with a soundtrack that’s no slouch.
The book is anchored by two long poems written in prose segments by a young speaker. The first, “Dark Star,” revolves around the speaker, the speaker’s friend Janie, and the speaker’s mom. The first two sentences of the poem set the tone: “We were listening to the Ani DiFranco song about how she forgives her father. It made Janie want to forgive her father too.” Further, the poem suggests dark strains just below the surface, but they are mentioned in passing: “Being ‘good’ means eating as little as possible. My mom said, ‘I was so bad today,’” “Janie’s mom was on antidepressants so she was really laid-back. We called her parenting style, ‘Laissez-faire.’” The speaker acknowledges trouble, but does so like a teenager, trying to shrug off any problems.
The second long poem, “8th Grade Hippie Chic,” mostly details the relationship between the speaker and an unnamed “You.” Music also plays a large role in this poem: “You stole my CD. You borrowed it in 1996 and you never gave it back and I miss it, I miss it every day.” The speaker, a vivid memoirist, says:
Question: Would you ever kiss a boy whose tongue has been on another girl’s vagina? Answer: What’s the point? You taught me how to see things double. My fuzzy chain wallet. Your aura. I taught you all the words to that Butthole Surfers song. How to pretend to pass a joint.
“8th Grade Hippie Chic,” like “Dark Star” before it, includes the dark side of growing up: “My mom told me Karen Carpenter stopped her own heart […] inducing vomiting with ipecac syrup. I looked for it in the medicine cabinet.” Details like these are unnerving to be sure, but mostly, these poems and Reversible chisel in stone what exists in the speaker’s memory. In the last poem, the speaker says, “The music hits the walls of my house like there’s a song stuck in my head.” And she’s right. There is no escaping growing up or that song on the radio, no matter how you feel about them.
Nate Logan was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. His criticism has appeared or is forthcoming in Fanzine, Luna Luna Magazine, and Sink Review, among others. He’s editor and publisher of Spooky Girlfriend Press.