Orange Crush

Simone Muench is a Chicago poet by way of Louisiana. Her third book of poems, Orange Crush, sets its tone early with her opening lines: "Trouble came and trouble / brought greasy, ungenerous things." The tempting call in this poem, "Hex," evokes a depravity which sets the stage for Muench's central characters: London's seventeenth-century "orange girls," who sat outside theaters selling china oranges for six-pence each--or, more accurately, selling themselves to the audience, to the men, to the trouble to come.

 

The title of the volume plays on the soda pop, the fun in orange and the playfulness in crush--whether a violence to something or a young love for someone. The poems, divided into four sections: "Record," "Rehearsal," "Recast," and "Redress" are chock full of historical moments and tough views on the continued subjugation of women. The poem "Orange Girl Suite" stands out as a passionate (both loving and horrifying) revelation of the female plight.

 

Muench's word choices catch a hard gentility of body and mind with precise and vile moments: "my skin is soft/the safety's off." And Orange Crush is highly musical; at times it has the pace of a horror-movie score, leading the reader through blows, lacerations, and violent deaths. But the poems don't offer observation from a point of weakness, quite the opposite. There is no whining, only a continued fascination, and, in some cases, enjoyment in the said depravity.

 

"[These poems] acknowledge the violence inherent in human beings," yet realize our "choosing creation over destruction, to both survive and resist … empathy," offers Muench by way of context. One of today's best poets, she has produced an astonishing work that is poignant, tells a story, and both challenges and pleases the reader. All in all, his is a highly effective, alarming collection of poems.

 

 

 

from "Orange Girl Suite"

 

hunter, I hand you

a red sweater, whisper

of precipitation.

 

trigger-happy laughter

in the light-latticed

forest. you burn

 

my nightgown

to undergrowth

in this feral

 

season. overseer

to all small

deaths, your lips

 

an orange smear

of cordiality.

 


Mark Eleveld is a co-founder of EM Press (www.em-press.com), editor of The Spoken Word Revolution, and host of Slam the Radio: Poetry on Sirius/XM radio. He programmed the first Poetry Jam at the White House for the President and Mrs. Obama in 2009.

 

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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