Poetry. "Smart, empathetic poems... MAKING MAXINE'S BABY is a gorgeous book, eminently readable, full of surprises."—Elisabeth Frost
"Tracking her flight from the hell of feeling, Caroline Hagood's metaphors unfold with a desperado's inventiveness. Reeling with the book's unexpected turns, I'm reminded of Dickinson's razor-sharp observations of her own psyche and of Plath's acerbic wit. For all the diversity of its escape routes, MAKING MAXINE'S BABY reads like a single utterance. It wills us to train our attention not on the traumatic violation at the poems' source, but on the loneliness, wild creativity, and valor of survival."—Joan Larkin
|Publisher:||Hanging Loose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)|
About the Author
Caroline Hagood is a teaching fellow at Fordham University and the author of a previous collection, Lunatic Speaks. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.
Read an Excerpt
Making Maxine's Baby
By Caroline Hagood
Hanging Loose PressCopyright © 2015 Caroline Hagood
All rights reserved.
Maxine doesn't only love men's bodies. She wants to grasp the logic
of their internal organs. She craves blueprints, circuit diagrams,
sewing patterns. First time she saw Frankenstein she wasn't afraid.
She wanted to know how the mad doctor did it,
where to get dead people parts, which graves were best
for culling, whether a whole family of ladybugs
could live inside those zombie bellies.
When the high school guidance counselor
asked the inevitable career question, she told her
all she really cared about was weaving back and forth
between the inner and outer life of people, what you could see,
what you couldn't, writing down what she found there,
taking ideas apart and putting them back together
to make them more ecstatic.
So you want to be a mechanic?
In a way, she said, and left it at that.
Every winter solstice she watches surgery shows, goes to butcher shops,
rethinks people as composites, disparate shards blazed together by
She has only to say unravel and her body will unwind before her,
unfurl like a curled hair come undone after the ravage.
So much about negative space can be learned
from snow angels, how she imprints slush with the shape
of where she was, then where she wasn't. To dissolve the distinction
between inside and outside take a wrecking ball to a building.
Where do things go after they're unmade: failed marriages,
the minds of the dead, old cells after replication?
Is there a holding place for disappeared things where people can reclaim
everything from nail clippings to abandoned children?
Because she can't stand the thought of her love vanishing,
She keeps all her old boyfriends in a mason jar by the porch swing.
How Mermaids Save the Drowning
Maxine dreams of standup comics
sliding dead down shower walls,
making red capes on white tiles,
as she looks on, envious and alive.
When she was six, he started to confetti
her skin, and night after night he found other ways
of making verbs of nouns, saying
there's a new sheriff in town.
The sheep did nothing, just looked on mirror-eyed
as he dismantled the carefully swept floors
of her inner dollhouse, caused the wind chimes to tremble,
upset the cacti garden, broke with tenderness each light bulb,
then stood aside, cold and separate, to watch her crumble
with the kind of desire she'd seen only in the man
who robbed her melon garden, left tatters
of rind here and there, didn't even care
about the squirrels looking on terrified.
Maybe it wouldn't have happened
if Maxine could pull back people's coverings,
see what they really kept underneath —
children's lunchboxes, glow worms,
crocodile tears, and something sequined
that smells of woman.
After he touched it, she wanted to remove her flesh,
just bulldoze it and build a mall there.
She imagines herself stuck in an iron maiden,
like Johnny Depp's mother in Sleepy Hollow.
Hurt changes memory. It all comes out later in slashes,
leaving her an ellipsis in her own sentence.
Grief is a nasty lay and a poor companion.
One day Maxine's brain started eating itself,
became both prisoner and prison,
made crisscrossed gashes on its own skull walls,
but smiled widely when people came for a tour,
always so damn pleasing.
She and body are no longer speaking.
They blame each other for what happened.
She started splitting off the first time
the sheriff touched her child skin.
She fears if she ever sees what she really is,
She'll Medusa herself. Real Maxine
is a tiny mouse that lives in her bloodstream,
who longs to paddle boats over water bodies,
feel the sear of ice cream lips, fall in love
with architecture, but remains trapped inside
with the heartbreak of dissipated protein.
Maxine tries to live in the time before it happened —
when she would bury her face in her cat's belly
and how it always smelled
a little like fish, a little like milk,
spend all summer seeking to engineer
the ineffable as a child in Coney Island,
building a sandcastle for the homeless man
who lived beneath the Wonder Wheel,
where he could sleep safe from pain
behind a fence of Nathan's hotdogs.
Now, light breaks her. There's a cracked doll
sitting by her bed watching her sleep, she just knows it.
She fixes herself, harsh letters strung together.
Like other sad fables, she'll just be rewritten.
Someday she hopes to feel revived, like hell is inside
but she's flushed it out with water. She thinks
she's the devil's daughter.
When Maxine tries to understand, she's like a surgeon
taking shining sticks to her own form,
admiring how people are strung together,
shrewd bone experiments that actually endure.
She performed the dissection on herself,
but it just left her secretive and paralyzed,
spending Saturday nights licking her own wounds,
and when her tongue stuck to something frozen,
she didn't even try to save it, just tore it at the root
and left it there. She'd never seen a person
turned inside out, but didn't want to miss it.
Medical students do it all the time,
stay in the room as the casing is pealed back,
revealing the coral within. All she believes in
anymore are her own stories,
because if she can do nothing else,
she can witness, she can record.
Beneath everything is lust
for the slurp and suck
of changing molecules,
extreme makeover shows,
the lure of the beyond. It's why
Maxine hitchhiked America the summer
after freshman year, but now she lives
in a subway tunnel, simultaneously seen
and unseen, an undetectable horse leaving
mysterious tracks in the mud.
She used to be on the honor roll,
but now she does Dante in different voices,
had to go down, ask the dead for answers.
Before they bludgeoned them
or left them to rot under a stack of TV dinners,
writers used to talk to muses,
but now she makes do shouting at manholes
and playing her harmonica
for the A train people.
At night Maxine prays — God, I don't know if you're out there,
but sometimes I hear you screaming in the tracks,
feel your heat lawnmowering through my veins,
flashes of something emphatic etched in zebra stripes
trying to break out of me. Without her home,
she crouches inside her flesh tent, crackling,
rushing the next holy moment, a small scar
collector hurrying onward. Without her skin,
she is a blood puppet. Nerves gaunt and jangling,
it's a jungle she welcomes,
this open air cinema, our lady
of the surgical theater. Without her cells,
she is unrestricted,
rising up like ether,
incapable of being held in palms,
It's like a joke told by an uncle with bad breath,
this living as a watch awaiting
her own unwinding. Maxine can be undone
so easily, fragmented like language,
torn asunder. It's all hazy, like that moment
when she first wakes up
and can't be sure of anything — whose soft,
bruised limbs are these, whose morning saliva?
An instant stuck between sleep and the day
that follows, interstitial thing,
sandwich meat, moon sliver.
This is when she is most herself,
when she hovers on the edge
of her many raving possibilities,
the taint of the vulnerable always in her,
the breath she must take
before facing anyone.
While walking the Brooklyn Bridge today,
she choked on something sacred. It was in
that old lady's whiteness of hair, the depth
of her smile lines, even when she wasn't smiling.
Maxine thought everything just might be okay
when her octopus mind extended its tentacles.
Her understanding of a conversation is that people
put stuff in her ears and it comes out as a poem.
She's overcome by the words written under her eyelids,
inexplicable ant farms, unsayable things she says anyway
because it saves her from strangling
on her own fervor, this ability
to look at things longer than other people,
hear the voices of inanimate objects, read revolution
on plants like Nat Turner did, put letters on a page
that can crawl right off, touch readers in places
they shouldn't, breathe into their mouths,
because that's how mermaids save the drowning.
Those Things They Call Horses
Eliot could hear the mermaids, but for Maxine
it's discarded appliances, morning after morning, asking
what she's written. They look like buck-toothed porpoises. Loneliness
is like gray hairs, leave it alone for long enough and it will make children.
The thing about staying up late loaded on coffee
is that the brain turns into another kind of beast entirely.
All borders between self and other melt like movie candy
and the creature it spurs around the ring of the mind
is so much more unruly than those things they call horses.
This is a mode that creates only in negative space,
digging deep inside and eliminating anything cowardly,
revealing her inner Ultima Thule, a land of milk and spices.
She wanted to write something she'd like to read, so she took some fountain pens
and planted them in a garden. When they sprouted,
they had iambic leaves and a hypothalamus.
Best Done in Leather
remembering is best done in leather
on the back of a motorcycle
Maxine can still see him in a bowler hat winking
he knew she couldn't get enough
her memories are tangled chords
someday she will make a rope out of them
and capture something wonderful
stop being a live wire
a maker of trouble a hidden fox
come and find her or maybe
she is better left unfound
with her mind of running cattle
and backward time travel
she's starting to suspect
she wasn't made for these days
that live so far from the edge
teach her all that you have seen
caresser of fish women
only listener to the sirens' song to survive
tell her about the giants because she knows they exist
and she's sick as hell of being lied to
Adventures in Maxine
Maxine is always wondering what color
she is inside. Red probably, or is it blue
before oxygen hits like a bee swarm,
viciousness expertly wielded,
compendium of ferocity?
Yes, red probably — not lipstick
but uncle's blood clot, not raspberry
but hooker's nipple, gore on murder
weapon, color of his face when she said
she didn't love him, manhandled
woman parts, commie pinkos,
poppies that brought sleep to Dorothy.
Dear Brain, a bad student of science,
Maxine has always wondered what you look like.
Probably some spongy stew, but that's okay.
she likes you anyway. She thinks there are synapses
involved. What's your configuration?
Not just in cases of dissection,
your marvelous thinking mass
spread out like sparrow wings on a table,
but your hunger and camouflage.
Do you contain wax reproductions
of starlets or something more real, like big boiling
sobs? What kind of movies do you watch?
Skin flicks, stag films, blue movies,
or something far worse like musicals?
Either way, she promises to take good care of you,
to feed your plants and water your children.
Cut Maxine open and you'll find letters,
sulking, deconstructed sentences
that build whole factories
when she's not looking.
Anatomize her brain, like in one
of her slasher movies, and it's connected
not by neurons but by commas, semicolons,
parentheses. She stretches thoughts out in coils of ascending spiral
staircases (people can have very strong
feelings about punctuation; Kurt
Vonnegut was firmly against
the semicolon). The problem is
the bull of her idea always stays locked
in her thought prison. She can never
get close enough, just keeps waving
her cape in front of it eternally.
There are too many horns
and too much theoretical distance.
Maxine's tree house mind, with its many roots
and dendrites, connections, however tenuous,
a thing you could climb. Now that she's cracked
it open, she likes to journey in it,
like Mrs. Frizzle in her magic school bus,
an Alice unleashed on Thunderland.
It always smells like bread and citrus,
no matter the weather. If it were a garden
in a British novel,
it would tell you everything
about its owner: be full of roses
that looked like weapons.
Excerpted from Making Maxine's Baby by Caroline Hagood. Copyright © 2015 Caroline Hagood. Excerpted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsMaxine Misunderstood, 9,
How Mermaids Save the Drowning, 11,
Those Things They Call Horses, 20,
Best Done in Leather, 21,
Adventures in Maxine, 22,
Horror Theory, 26,
Radioactive Candy Apple, 34,
Star Wars Aficionados, 40,
An MFA in Vapor, 44,
Maxine's Romance, 48,
Making Maxine's Baby, 56,