Instructions, Abject & Fuming

Instructions, Abject & Fuming

by Julianna Baggott
Instructions, Abject & Fuming

Instructions, Abject & Fuming

by Julianna Baggott

Paperback(1st Edition)

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In this inventive collection, Julianna Baggott invites readers to reconsider basic assumptions about language, faith, motherhood, and love. With a sharply honed voice featuring parentheticals that often comment on and sometimes undercut what has come before, these poems whirl through contemporary America, engaging with topics as diverse and timely as Russian mail-order brides, Internet bullying, and school shootings.

Alongside her cultural commentary, the speaker frankly confronts love and sex, as well as the beauty and brutality of having children. Still other poems reflect questions and considerations of faith: the speaker ponders St. Thomas in a pet store and imagines Jesus explaining to God how it feels to have a body.

Baggott’s use of obsolete Old English words subverts common language and creates new ways of interrogating the world around us. There is heartache on these pages, but Baggott also offers humor, such as a complaint about a lover’s eating habits or an extended discourse on a baby’s rattle. Baggott’s latest proves to be a rollicking book sui generis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780809335732
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
Publication date: 01/11/2017
Series: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 88
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Julianna Baggott is the author of over twenty books, three of which are collections of poetry—This Country of Mothers, Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees, and Lizzie Borden in Love. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Poetry, Agni, and the Southern Review, and been read on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. She teaches in the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts and holds the Jenks Chair of Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross.

Read an Excerpt


If your dream comes to life
and the houses
on our street lift themselves up
and walk off

on their leggy stilts and find different
before you come home from school
I will meet you at
the spot in case of fire
under the dying pine-whose roots are not legs.

But promise me:
if the gunning madman
appears in the schoolyard and your teachers

shout the warning
Shark's in the tank! Shark's in
the tank!

pick up your dreamy head and run

on your stilty legs
to the herd's heart.
Only I will tell you how to survive:

let the other children take the first shots.
I will find you
under the pile of bodies-alive.


Each poem starts as a hunt for something else
like a replacement for rubber in WWII-

the birth of Silly Putty, a.k.a. Dow Corning's
3179 Dilatant Compound-not dilettante-

though also known for its shear thickening
like dilettantes' skulls. Poems can pick up

an image-cartoonishly-and distort,
blot dirt, shore up a table leg, secure

tools in zero gravity? This poem contains
Elmer's Glue and boric acid. Its lines


His typical blessings: the luxury
of disdain-reason-candid bemusement.

Envy the atheist his benign shrug
his Sunday mornings-his soul unsoiled-

his soulless soul-its airy high ceilings-
his soul imagines not imagining-

not even soul as bowl of warm porridge,
not even soul as carpet discount warehouse,

as petri dish, as lifetime warranty
or root, snow, plague, prune, atrophied muscle,

not even soul as plastic bag shining
with the bloat of water and the glint of

pet-store goldfish-the thrum of its fins-thin
and rounded, blur, spinning madly within.

imply cross-links between polymer chains-
removable with rubbing alcohol, cod liver oil

or my young mother, knelt before our thuggish
atomic gods, snipping the roots of a shag rug.


Bury me beneath the garden wickets
bordered by the flower-maws, their fierce caws
to be fed. I am nearly dead, too leached
to be a feast for bedbugs, now skittering
to my larded lover's back. Bleach our bloodsplotched
sheets, fumigate the sun-stripped room.
To be true, there is no velvet echo
among slick lungs and palpitatious heart
held steadfast only by muscled rigging.
Our love is locked in a wintry hive,
intricately iced, like a cake dolled
with glazed pecans, rippled as cleav'd brains,
lonesome as excised nipples reattached
postmastectomy. No casket. Stitch me
into gauze like a silken cocoon. Tell
the biddies to snip-snip their fine mole hairs,
cling damp-and-dear to my ignorant boar,
his beloved tusks still bright though brittle.


I like this: eyes on the sides of my head.
I don't mind: thin knees that buckle and pop

when hooves sink into mud. (A word on hooves:
not unlike my grand fuzzy platform shoes.)

I adore oily wool, its stubborn warmth.
I don't want to be shorn pink, raw, nicked.

But the neck bell-I'd like to see it go-
too erratic in my veined, twisting ears.

When the shepherd calls: see me, here, fixed
in the dumb field. My tufted knees now lock.

Hear me resisting-mouth-wide, tongue-charged-
electric tongue, detonating-rigid

and purpled-my hooves hooking dirt and weeds.
Tell me: why all of this heated bleating?

Table of Contents


Your World Is Harder than Mine: Instructions for Children Heading Off to School 3

Instructions for Our Children, Living among Internet Enemies 4

Today-Bored, Puckered, Lonesome-I Would Like to Order a Russian Internet Bride: A Trisonetto 5

The Sonetto of Accidental Inventions 7

This Deathy World 8

Poem to Your Wound 9

A Double Sonetto for Pyloric Stenosis 11

Claustrophobia: The Closet's Perspective 13

Agoraphobia: The Great Outdoors' Perspective 14

Taxidermy: A Translucent Love Poem 15

Lice: A Mother-Daughter Love Poem 17

A Fibrous Asbestos Sonetto 18

Today, I Turn to Stretch Armstrong for Comfort 19

Sermon on the Mount Today at My Failing Kmart: A Broken Sonetto 21

After Having Sex on Palm Sunday, Some Clarity 22

My Enemy, Unloved, Has Only Struck One of My Cheeks: An Interrupted Sonetto 23

I Consider Doubting Thomas at Pet Kare in a Sonetto and a Half 24

Envy the Atheist in Sonetto 25

I Am Not in the Wilderness but at Home, Weak and Thankless in Double Sonetto 26


To My Lover, concerning the Yird-Swine 31

Today, Worn and Broke't, I Make Demands of My Lover 32

For Furious Nursing Baby 33

Burial Instructions-Abject & Fuming 34

Concerning My Lover, the Ogerhunch 35

To My Lover, concerning the Shaking of the Bladder Rattle at the Maid's Baby 36

To the Rumor-Monger amongst Us 37

Happy Little Death Threats 38

To My Lover, Phrenology Hobbyist 39

To My Lover, about His Bouffege Eating of Meats 40

To My Lover, about His Derelict Neglect of the Gate-Lock 41

To My Lover, concerning a Cure for Barn Swallow Mites 42

To My Lover, My 'Klept 43

To My Lover, His Hair Thick with Bear Grease 44

For My Lover, upon My Impending Death 46


The Practice of Being a Lamb 49

Jesus Wants to Explain the Body to His Father 50

Jesus Explain[s] His Father 52

Mary Magdalene and the Lost Body 54

Of Poor Spirit 55

In Rooms with Baby 56

Aquarium: Love Poem #1 57

Aquarium: Love Poem #2 58

Today, There Is No Time, Only Squalling Squalor 59

Don't Take Up with the Married Man 60

If You Do Not Eat Enough Omega-3 while Pregnant, the Baby Will Steal It from Your Brain 61

I Prefer the Earlier You-Dear Reader 62

On the Masochistic Need for Criticism 63

For the Blind Botanist's Wife 64

Today, You Leave Me to Go to the Store, but I'm Sure You Won't Come Back 65

Today-Hauling a Family on My Back-1 Think of Fitzgerald's Exquisite Crack-Up: A Resistant Sonetto 67

Interviewers Ask How I Do It 70

As Men Relinquish Their Manliness 71

America-Let Me Be Your Gravedigger: A Disfigured Sonetto 72

When the Girl Becomes the Bear 73

Acknowledgments 75

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