Rhonda Ganz, Frequent, small loads of laundry
2017, Mother Tongue Publishing Limited, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
$19.95, ISBN 978-1-896949-60-4, 79 pages
Reviewed by Heather Babcock
The poems in Rhonda Ganz’s debut collection are the literary equivalent of a hard boiled dame in a 1940’s film noir: a gutsy, lusty broad in a torn negligee daintily pinning white sheets stained with blood and nicotine to her clothesline while simultaneously wiping her husband’s kiss off her mouth and smearing red lipstick on her lover’s collar.
In other words, these poems are beautiful but they are not afraid to be ugly.
From the maids who make love together in a vacant room in between shifts in “El Camino Motor Hotel, New Mexico” - “I reach for the Bible in the bedside table/the page in Leviticus, translucent/with kisses, where Consuela’s lips/gild the verse telling her not/to lie down with me.” – to the woman who “switches from beer to bourbon/and maybe flashes her tits at the engineer” (from “A Section in Texas of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe”), Ganz’s writing strips off the habitual masks that we humans wear and spreads open the curtains to reveal hidden dreams, clandestine desires and furtive fears.
Frequent, small loads of laundry is sectioned into seven parts which are sequentially named after the days of the week. This makes sense for a collection with the word “laundry” in its title; as with the wearing of clothing, our preoccupation with compartmentalizing time and our need to fold darkness and light into a drawer marked “Monday” is one of the very few things that distinguish humans from animals. As if to highlight how paper thin these human conceits are, bowlegged bears, pink elephants and cats who chew “on fresh rabbits’ feet, devouring good luck” are but a few of the animals who populate Ganz’s poems. In “Keepers”, “little green men” kidnap the author: “They are looking for a woman/to keep company with the man/in their zoo.”
Death, that other innately human obsession, sashays through this collection with feline sensuality: in “Bad Imaginings” a Grandmother crawls out from under the bed to advise her granddaughter to “try a little Barry White and a little more lube,” while the dead woman in “I Sleep the Sleep of the Dearly Departed” wears a “shimmering gown” and a “game show smile” as she displays the mattress she died upon. In “Judging Sorrow”, Ganz explores the frustration of writing about the loss of a parent:
“Grief sounds better
When the mike is the right height,
When the front row detects a quaver.”
The last stanza of this poem, which I won’t spoil by revealing here, is truly haunting.
Ghosts, angels and even a dead pope – “I’m off to charm that friend of yours/with holy licit fantasy” (from “The New Latin”) – are very much alive in these poems which beg to be read out loud in the dark basement of an abandoned coffee shop on the wrong side of town, accompanied by a chorus of finger snaps.
Sex, blood, tears and religion: it’ll all come out in the wash. Just in time for us to get dirty again.
Heather Babcock has had short fiction published in various literary journals including Descant, Front&Centre and The Toronto Quarterly. Her chapbook "Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards" was published in 2015 by DevilHouse. Heather has performed at many poetry salons and events in Toronto including The Beautiful & the Damned, Lizzie Violet's Cabaret Noir, Hot Sauced Words and Plasticine Poetry. She is a founding member of The Redhead Revue movie night and reading series with Lizzie Violet.