Home of Sudden Service

Elizabeth Bachinsky’s onstage presence at the Scream in High Park last summer was both stolid and tender, gothic and whimsical; she read from her collection of works like a pro, giving each poem careful cadence and electric charge. When Bachinsky delivered an affecting performance of “Wolf Lake”–a lyric narrated by a woman left for dead in the woods–I was left stunned, impressed and wanting more.

In Bachinsky’s Home of Sudden Service, nostalgia cloaks itself in the muddied guise of meter and old-school poetic form. “Valley” sets the tone of the slim and assured volume as it introduces readers, sonnet-style, to Home of Sudden Service’s raison d’etre: a reclaiming of the “cold suburban cartography” of no-town, trailer trash B.C. Aware of the way in which landscape works itself into our blood and bones, Bachinsky spins the “schoolyard piss and shit” of teenage malaise into a rigorous investigation of familiarity, desperation, and the mundane reality of living below the radar:

… our fumbling rose, not out of desire, but desperation. I know we drove in circles, because those were the only roads we knew. I know how it is to have a place inhabit the body, to feel a car rolling fast and a boy’s hand working on your knee. We were at the mercy of location; he lived just up the street. God knows we would have loved anybody else, given the opportunity.

Bachinsky’s words flow in the direction of rain: changes unchanging and spent. The kids Bachinsky sings about are caught in a vicious play of absence and presence, the “apathetic charm” of their drug-ridden slip-ups undercut by the cold encroach of adulthood. The text’s main concern, in fact, is girlhood, its emergent sexualities. And we’ve encountered these girls before; girls obsessed with horses, girls obsessed with boys. Dyke girls, camping girls, working girls, pining girls. Girls with child, girls gone bad, giddy girls long gone with drink. Through loss (“Sometimes Boys Go Missing”), intoxication (“Of a Place”), and delinquency (“B&E”), Home of Sudden Service gets to the heart of growing up stuck: “Like wild grass/ from under the hoof of a pastured animal, we spring up”. (Erin Gray)

by Elizabeth Bachinsky, $15, 78 pgs, Nightwood Editions, 773 Cascade Crescent, Gibsons Landing, BC, V0N 1V9, nightwoodeditions.com

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