The first poems in Danger Days by Catherine Pierce (Saturnalia Press, 2020) lead one to expect that this book will be all about end times and apocalypse.  The fourth poem dispels this idea: “High Dangerous” is the name her young sons give to hydrangeas.  But there is danger there too: the bees in the flowers.

Pierce finds danger in many supposedly ordinary places.  In motherhood, for instance, in “How Becoming a Mother Is Like Space Travel.” (Both find themselves rearranged.) “Abecedarian for the Dangerous Animals” covers five kinds of animal: bees, bats, the cassowary, the golden dart frog, and humans.

She juxtaposes mundane and more serious dangers, as in the opening of:

I Spend My Days Putting Away,

the small blue car here, the skipped
heartbeat there, everything
stowed and safe.  I don’t want

anyone tripping, or slipping
into that world that isn’t this one.

One set of poems addresses the history of words, in a series she calls “From the Compendium of Romantic Words.” In each poem she explores, deconstructs and plays with a particular word.  My favorite is “delicatessen” which begins:

Noun.  Notable for a sibilant elegance heightened
by the suggestion of cured meats.  Not deli,
a vulgar nickname, a fly-den, a swing-by, but
a long sigh of syllables, a time machine.  Inside
its languid hiss: flannel suits, stenographer glamour.
When the word is uttered, a skyline materializes.

Two others in this series can be found via Pierce’s website, by clicking on Two Poems (Kenyon Review).  Several other poems from the book are listed there, including “High Dangerous” and the Abecedarian.  For other samples, check out “Enough” and “Tether Me.”

Pierce lifts up for examination the fragility of relationships, of the human experiment, of a world in which there is always a chance of losing one’s bearings. A world which delights, even while the speaker is frightened for it or for her own balance in it.

I would not have known of Catherine Pierce’s work if a friend hadn’t sent me this book.  It is definitely a keeper. I’ll be eager to see what she does next.