Poetry. The middle section of this new poetry collection from Susana H. Case consists of ekphrastic poems inspired by the crime scene dioramas of Frances Glessner Lee, the "mother of forensic science." How appropriate, for this entire collection is an exercise in forensics, as Case deploys her poetic powers of detection to investigate and interrogate life in its minutest details; and all too often she too is depicting acts of violence, committed against women, against migrants, against the marginalized. Early on she questions the "puzzling utility" of her "street light eyes," but those eyes miss nothing, and it seems as well that she has missed no opportunity to learn from what they have seen, whether it is recognizing that "everything was happening" even while it seemed to her adolescent self that "nothing nothing nothing happened," or taking from an encounter with a baby skunk in a tent the lesson "Don't move. / Don't make a sound." Fortunately that silence yields profound words here, as in the title poem where a quintessentially quirky New York City experience of, quite literally, a dead shark in a subway car provides an occasion for meditation on death and destinations, what we see and what we don't, and how long we can journey to end up not so far from where we began. "Remind me none of this will kill me," she writes in one poem—except sometimes it can, and does, and she does not flinch from putting even the "shriveled flesh" of a dying friend into her poetry. If this sounds grim, it can be, but the sure touch and precision of Case's language elevates her work from any sense of morbid voyeurism. Nor does she spare herself from this examination, as in the closing poem where she grapples with her own physical fragility and the limits of language to express it. Recalling how she came to say "icebox" for refrigerator from her mother, she remembers a time she "did not have the vocabulary," and how since then she learned "Words deceive, the way love is often inarticulate." Case is certainly not the first poet to distrust language, the tools of her craft, nor the first to wonder about who is listening, "you people, / you whom I don't even write for." Those of us who are listening, for whom she is writing even when she is not sure herself, are fortunate indeed to receive these poems. It is perhaps an outrageous pun to call this a "Case report," but as an account of her poetic forensics it is an essential document of our time.
Susana H. Case is the author of eight books of poetry, including DEAD SHARK ON THE N TRAIN (Broadstone Books, 2020) which won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book, was a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. She is also the author of five chapbooks. Her first collection, The Scottish Cafe (Slapering Hol Press, 2002) was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka (Opole University Press, 2010). Her poems have also been translated into Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. With Margo Taft Stever, Case has co- edited the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe (Milk and Cake Press, 2022). In 2021, she became a co-editor of Slapering Hol Press.