On that one-way trip to Mars
by Marlena Chertock
Bottlecap Press, 2016
Marlena Chertock has published a book of poems that is a tour of our solar system. Not a museum tour or a virtual tour, but a mind tour where our imagination gets to find the “thinnest, softest pads to lay its paws on.”
The title of Chertock’s debut collection is On that one-way trip to Mars. When you go to Mars, why can’t you come back to visit Earth? What if you don’t like it? Don’t worry, if Chertock is with you there’ll be a pleasant balance of narrative and science. She’ll tell you the story of teeth chattering themselves right out of a mouth. She’ll steer you through fog, shadows and fire. It’s OK, she knows the way.
What most impresses me with this collection is the crafty ordering of the poems. For example, there will be several poems about illness, and then a seemingly unrelated one. When I linger between the pages, I see the seemingly unrelated poems merge into satisfying allegories.
Other times the connections between the poems are more obvious, but no less enjoyable. In the title poem a person can’t go to Mars because of a bone disorder, in another poem a person can’t go to a funeral because of a period. The red planet + the menstrual cycle = bosom buddies. I hadn’t known.
This book is a mix of detail, dream, David Bowie, confession, resolution and healing. It will take you from the periods of Mars to the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, to a man stabbed for an iPhone, his blood “staining the Metro carpet.” It’s a trip, and I don’t mind never coming back.
Review by Jim Thompson of Cacti Fur.