Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls by Erika Meitner


These cool, hot poems about women and girls in danger and on the prowl, coming of age and being of age, are full of startling detail and vivid setting. Meitner's range, wit, compassion and her alertness to the moments where domestic and collective experience intersect, make these poems memorable. This book is a seriously good read. -- Daisy Fried, author of My Brother is Getting Arrested Again

Whether working from memories of girlhood or accounts of alien abduction, these poems trace the seam of the fantastic and the quotidian, carefully mapping the way each slides into the other. Meitner's poems are at once smooth and explosive, combustible engines of propulsive force. Vigilance meets the makeshift when precise attention leads to new assessment, the transformation of the self indivisible from self knowledge. -- Jason Schneiderman, author of Striking Surface

Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls is a sexy, funny, smart book full of crack-the-whip language. Meitner climbs the scaffolding of different kinds of rhetoric -- the abduction narrative, the extraterrestrial encounter, the customs declaration form, the marriage vow -- to provide startling insight into questions of truth and its constructions. For its music, for its stylistic variety, for its ambition, and for its delights, this instruction manual proves its worth again and again. -- Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables

Cover: Brice Brown

Someone Calls

men to her house
she straddles the roof
they alternate turns
coaxing her down
they wait in the street
which spins on its axis
the wind gets monotonous
with purring fumes
exhausted trails
of hooked alarms
bordello rungs extended

everything is red red red
and waiting

take this light (night-swim)
take this sound (wing-span)

traversing the acrobat sky
she is jet-propulsion
and shy with crowned stature
divines the go relay's
fast-bursting signs
a car starter coughing
the hymned powerlines
bellies of dogwood leaves
wielding their fur she is
armor-ready hyper-aware
poised on the edge
like a zipper's pull

if the moon is a portal
a gate to the real
like panties like heaven
a palace of skin
her fall will unlock it
a finger running
her lover's spine
a key a bolt tearing
one gold tooth one
gold star at a time
from the sky's body
eternal partner in crime
the strings that hold her
all want no pain only
breathless brilliance bring


Instructions for Constructing an Alien Abduction

To convince experts you must whisper theophany and return.
You must not let them know the examination

was incomplete, that no one except
your dermatologist stared into your eyes

for a prolonged period while he levitated
forward off his pleather stool to brush

your broken capillaries with his thumbs.
Let the otherworldly journey sound

like a guided tour of the most ruptured
art museums. Make sure to include

the not-quite-uniformly light sky
and the sea hanging from the last twisted

wisteria vine. (It's a small sea--
the kind they send inconsequential

jewels to bathe in. Never mind
the hard water, the beds of kelp

that deter sharks and anyone who loathes
the texture of human hair.) Tangle yourself

in the aftermath: a sudden and arcane knowledge
of detritus, the fly sleeping quietly under your tongue,

and any message wound in the fortune cookies
of bedsheets that begins: Dear Sirs,

I lie in your fleecy underbelly until winter comes and I can cross the ocean on foot. Along the way, my kinsmen will care for me, as will any lone kayaker scooting his craft towards the sun. A woman traveling alone is a cause for vulnerable celebration. Her hair will declare her for miles.


Quisiera Declarar

The primary purpose
of this trip is the (check
the box) the yes business
of this peripatetic
pleasure trip is declared is
vanished is I almost
disappeared once to O-O-
Okalahoma with a
(check the box) a man I
fell in (____) with over
the business of close
proximity over the
roving (yes) phone.
Another time it was
a guy on a plane to
Bangkok. He got off in
New Delhi, got off in
Bombay, got off in
Alaska on the
refueling stopover,
left me with
fruits plants food insects
left me with
meats animals wildlife products
left me with
a hickey as big as
Chiang Mai, and a case of
continental drift. Shift
me one gear up (clutch) to
local, available,
single, potable. Drink
me down and don't worry--
I won't hang on like
typhoid or dysentery.
I own an imaginary
boyfriend extraordinaire:
tongue-marker, heart-breaker
and I am so faithful
and he's so invisible
I don't even have to
declare him not even
to customs officials
because I have read the
crucial information
on the reverse side of
this form and I have made
a truthful declaration.

In some countries
it is customary
to declare nothing--
the phrasebook said
to use the word
tengo, to use
the word nada.
The Spanish
I know is from
Sesame Street--
salida (exit).
Tonight I was
trolling the saw-
dust floor of the
worst bar in town
it was called The
Real Luck Café
or Earl's. It was
called The Double
Down. It was called
The Tip-A-Few.
Total value
of declared art-
icles: nil. But

I came home at
dawn and I would
like to declare
that I am not
a visitor I am
declaring that
I came home
a resident
the primary
purpose of this
I checked the box
(a citizen)
I swear I have
made a truthful
(the primary
purpose of this
visit was) I
came home
to you.



grows the heart
open: balloon surgery

inflated artery
distended implant

stunning single breast
condom gone awry & batted

around health class
elastic vase bypass

cloud seed, puffed
milkweed pod (your

shivering lung-
fuls, exhausted lips).

This magician blows
party knots, twists

temptation: squeeze
the yellow snapdragon,

pop the pretty
cherry then

plastic gunshot

snapped bombshell

wound unlocked
wound unfastened
wound ajar
this fragile

your body (rubber)
a gaping vessel
of breath.

you sharded light,
you shoebox camera,
you pin-prick;

this hushed leak
from mouth
to mouth
to mouth.


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