reviewed by Hannah Rousselot
Mela Blust’s chapbook Skeleton Parade is an examination of a woman’s survival of trauma. It begins with false promises, promises that men utter before wrecking and breaking. Throughout the chapbook, the persona’s body is constantly being touched, pulled, prodded, abused while her mind is elsewhere; a flimsy phantom whose boundaries are consistently ignored. In “priorities,” Blust writes: “and days unfolded, life/ not stopping/ despite all the little deaths.” This is the pain that the persona must endure, every day- a series of little deaths at the hands of what were supposed to be acts of love. Blust expertly weaves the horrid reality of surviving trauma with the continued expectation of the men she interacts with and the society she lives within. The persona is expected to always provide, always be the tool for a man’s consumption: “dolls do not get rings/ open wide my dear.” This line, from the poem “dolls,” highlights how the persona is not even seen as human, as someone who gathers experiences, but rather as a vessel for man’s pleasure. Even when the abuse is “gone,” the persona cannot escape what has happened to her, what continues to happen to her. In “lullabies,” Blust writes: “oh honey/ haven’t you ever woken up next to a ghost?” Pain that is so focused in the body leaves the mind only one place to go: into the ether. Toward the end of Skeleton Parade, the persona begins to reconcile with the agony she has endured. In “this will hurt me more than you” (a terrifying sentiment in and of itself), Blust writes “the pain (…) couldn’t be washed away/ and i had to learn to swim.” The persona begins to float, trying to reconnect with the body she has lost, trying to feel the depth beneath her.
Skeleton Parade is the examination of abuse that women in the past, present, and unfortunately future endure, endured, will continue to endure. I read it and saw myself; I am sure many victims of sexual trauma will feel the same.
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