Published March 2013 | Rose Metal Press | Brookline, MA | 104 pages
But Our Princess Is in Another Castle is a book of prose poems about video games. It is also a book about love, faith, death, and as many reviewers have pointed out, the awkward glories of adolescence.
Princess was also the first book where I (in a wonderful partnership with the co-editors) made a big push to get publicity. I launched my blog and frequently posted about the book there, and was fortunate to receive press, interviews, and reviews in a variety of venues large and small. I’m very grateful to everyone who wrote about the book, and for those who let me talk or write about it. Check out any of the below links for more information.
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Princess was recognized as an Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the Wisconsin Library Association for 2014!
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We were raised in the decade of crashed spaceships. We’d see them from the school bus: one would be large as a car wreck, coughing purple smoke. Another was small as a crushed can, glinting in the gravel.
Science class was only good for answers. We learned space is a vacuum, blank as a bubble. We guessed licking a nine-volt battery was like tasting champagne. A hawk ate a snake ate a mouse ate some grain. Mars stared at us from page 63, red as a kickball.
It was fall. We were building a fort in the woods, laying out branches like an electrical diagram drawn in crayon. All those leaves. We kept twin imaginary robots that looked like ordinary flashlights. One was named Terror. The other was Fear. The weatherman made frost sound like a mystery, but we learned it was just the natural progression of things—water getting older, harder, more bitter. We had a backpack filled with fruit snacks, beef jerky, and our mothers’ cameras.
We would be ready. We would be ready for when they came.
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The world was bright as candy.
I don’t mean some halcyon youth. Rather the October when we were walking on the Ice Age Trail, the trees shooting off their fireworks of leaves, our son curled in your belly. I was saying something about how love is no amulet, a kiss is no magic, when I scuffed over a dinosaur bone, smooth and white as a dinner plate.
Brontosaurs trampling Wisconsin! Pangaea unzipping away! And now a whole skeleton beneath me, locked in a crypt of glacial loam!
It wasn’t a dinosaur bone.
By then, it was now. Our living room an archaeology of toys. The plastic keys. The musical cube. A cell phone with four buttons that calls twinkling little stars. And he’s learning a new trick with his saliva: bubbles on his lips like the domes in some strange spit city.
I met a stegosaur at the drugstore today. I wanted to ask her about her plates, about thermal regulation, about keeping the broth of her blood neither a ball nor a boil. About how you could love yourself, your mate, your child when you know you all came from eggs. But she didn’t want to talk about any of that. Atop her head rode a seventy-nine-cent pink plastic bottle filled with soap water and the ridiculous ridged wand.
“Bubbles,” she said. “I’m one hundred and forty-three million years old, and I still love blowing bubbles.”
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Sometimes, in the closet of 3 a.m., I imagine the journey we didn’t take. The go-kart track in Fargo where we slammed around corners as easily as swinging a stopwatch on its lanyard. The clouds slinking like submarines through the ocean of an Oklahoma sky. Otters in the Snake River. The girl in the sporting goods store in Cranbrook, British Columbia—purple dress, pink hair, a skull-and-crossbones tattoo on her ankle—standing between us and the fishing poles, saying, “It’s all in the wrist, boys, it’s all in the wrist.”
Then I get out of bed, stand on the deck, look at the stars. The bullfrogs glunk their love songs to the moon. The grass blades gather beads for their morning tiaras of dew. Even the highway is done with driving for now.
I go back to bed, try dipping my toes in the river of sleep. I can almost picture the sunset over the Platte River we didn’t see, ripe as a nectarine, or hear water churning like an engine in a ravine below while I straddle a fallen log.
Some things are too dangerous to cross.