“It begins with an exhalation– ‘Calliope breathes/and this air/fills the calliope’ and we’ve entered the raucous world of Strange Girls, filled with squawks and shrieks, blue tulle and pink feathers, burnt popcorn and gunpowder. DiMartino’s Strange Girls are circus women like DiMartino’s own Great-Aunt Josephine: snake charmers, bearded ladies, contortionists, sword swallowers, and more. Each is drawn in precise, glittering detail through the poet’s swashbuckling use of various poetic forms. Among the most impressive are her concrete poems, which spiral and skitter through the collection. Every one of DiMartino’s sirens, sufferers, and spider-women in uniquely of her era, and of ours. Strange Girls will endure.”
–Leslie McGrath, author of Out from the Pleiades and Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage
from a photo by Diane Arbus
The tawdry carnival tent’s dark canvas
serves as perfect outdoor
where the Albino Woman indulges
the photographer with this simple, stunning
act; a salacious flair
for swallowing steel. The billowy cotton shirt,
the red skirt trimmed in gold ribbons and sequins
swept to the left side of her body
from a steady breeze, caught by the camera’s shutter.
She appears impaled by two swords:
double cross, with arms outstretched,
head thrown back, thin silver blades and hilts
jutting from between her
parted lips. The tender curve of her throat
exposed to the lens like the white flesh of a sliced
ripened pear: open, offered.
Spidora Rides the Spider
When she slips inside the cart
and the machine tilts as its legs rise into the air,
she gives herself over
to desperate drops and counter-clockwise turns.
She asks herself: what is a life
without the risk
in air, a suspension with tremors
–of spinning, spinning–
from a filament
as fine as spun luck?
The hurdy-gurdy music churns
from the carnival performance stage,
as the whirls whip with abandon,
and the orange lights that blink
the contour of the curved mechanical legs
blur against a night
webbed with stars, and she is happiest
when she lets go for the ride,
happiest, while she spins.