The Ghost And The God In The Girl In The House – a review of Kailey Tedesco’s FOREVERHAUS (White Stag Press) by Kristin Garth
I think my own fascination with the metaphor of houses for bodies begins in a funny place for an atheist: the King James version of the Bible. Raised in a fanatically religious Mormon house, scripture was the primary text cited and analyzed at 6:00 am, every school day, at kitchen table teenage seminary class, a required ritual of Mormon adolescence. A relevant passage that echoes one of several repeating themes in Kailey Tedesco’s fantastic, frenetic FOREVERHAUS is found in Corinthians 6: 19: “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.”
Tedesco echoes this sentiment rather explicitly in her poem “gushblood.” Its speaker postulates “where there is a hausthere is a sort of god.” I could not feel this sentiment more — even in my, perhaps especially in my more aged atheistic house of bones. Instead of believing in an other, a divinity to rescue or redeem me, I have finally made safe my temple and nurtured it with spells like Tedesco offers us in the scripture of the self that is FOREVERHAUS.
In a book populated with pulsing poetry and pictures of portals, we are led through a door to discourse of self-definition at once. In “Legend,” the speaker establishes a birthplace of malls and “ricotta tongues,” offering a setting of suburban mundanities and introducing a legend into this book, the origin story of the speaker. The speaker is both colored by and somehow apart from the New Jersey world introduced. The cows milk of this place doesn’t nurture – isn’t to blame for the devil in the narrator but as Tedesco’s speaker confesses it is “only me.”
This powerful sense of self determination has always been an enormously attractive element of Tedesco’s work to me. Self determination and its rituals are something a person disenfranchised from traditional practices of spiritual seeks in literature (at least I do).
There is a repetitive theme of mothers and children — the two at odds as the former attempts to define the latter. In “Hair Snarl,” there is an exchange between a mother and a daughter about a tangled head of hair. The daughter explains: “i tell her how my body drops in the brambles & i give the dirt permission to pollinate me early. mother says she will have to eat me if i ever lie again” The child asserting the self as the sovereign authority on its condition is spoken again and again in parables like of speakers sporting “frocks of bygone belief systems,” those who “take back” their baptisms so they “go where I like.”
There is a candy-coated communion of saints inside these poems that encapsulates the terror of treats of childhood. A “peppermint Jesus” and “cinnamon virgin” cohabitate in these pages with the Bloody Mary. The latter spirit is a presence in this book as omnipresent as the mother. Should one be surprised in a book with a poem titled ““a good mirror is nothing but a door”? Tedesco’s collection is in part a dictated catoptromancy without a sense of fealty to the divine.
Indeed the greatest saint in this haus of poetry is the speaker herself with the “language of crushed velvet” which is Tedesco’s rare gift. As a logophile myself, I love a poet who teaches me things with their powers — especially diction, vocabulary wielded with precision like a mighty sword. Kailey Tedesco does so with a prim playfulness that is joyous and infectious. When I read a line like, “i copulate freely — my body is a copula,” my soul feels a communion I never felt in a church.
For all the quarreling with the mother that the speaker of FOREVERHAUS does in the text, Tedesco bequeaths the book’s largest lesson to the maternal character. In “poltergeist 1,” Tedesco’s writes: “my mother once said everything is haunted when you are the haunting.” There is no argument here. This is a supposition this entire text supports for if a body is a house, then it is haunted by own spirit. And so a human body is definitively, ontologically haunted by its very existence. And if this is the case, then one ought to embrace the darkness and find peace there and companionship with other ghosts we encounter. As Tedesco says in “the thermal scanner reads ghost,” we should seek out the “substance, rubies well-fruited, afterlives on & in me.” There is a ghost and a god in all of us if we just look in the mirror long, read books like FOREVERHAUS long enough to finally see.
Kristin Garth is the dollhouse architect of the literary journal Pink Plastic House and the author of 18 books of poetry including Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press) and Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir (Hedgehog Poetry Press).