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Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls

Erika Meitner's Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls begins with sexual awakening and its inherent perils and ends just short of marriage, its poems trading in both nostalgia and uncertainty. Meitner deftly tackles lust, harassment, dating, death, alien abduction and the ever-important life skill that is filling out a form, all while rendering her images in clear and unique ways.

Erika Meitner's Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls begins with sexual awakening and its inherent perils and ends just short of marriage, its poems trading in both nostalgia and uncertainty. Meitner deftly tackles lust, harassment, dating, death, alien abduction and the ever-important life skill that is filling out a form, all while rendering her images in clear and unique ways.

In “Elegy with No Shoe-Leather Enfolded in a Love Poem,” the narrator mentions “the plastic dolls I loved childhood-fierce, // whose bitten, thick-skinned cheeks held no marks,” a description so vivid that it immediately conjures not only the narrator's exploratory early years, but also the complicated and sometimes violent relationships we have with toys. These relationships with toys are perhaps not that different from our relationships with other people, as Meitner's collection goes on to illustrate.

Still, Meitner's collection is strongest when reaching beyond the nostalgic or the literal, to the possible and the inevitable. “Quiseira Declarar” is a poem full of the many possible answers for a customs form, each answer acting as its own journey, but all combining to a poignant effect. In the end, these “makeshift instructions” seem most vigilant in “Elegy that Returns with Souvenirs,” when describing

[…] What
measures we take—have always
taken—to evade danger,

her fugitive bowl of rocks
by the door, everything stopgap,
everything mortal.

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