Avoiding the Rapture, by Karen J. Weyant

Avoiding the Rapture
by Karen J. Weyant

Riot in Your Throat, 2023

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk,
Poetry Editor, Escape Into Life

I suppose I’ve been avoiding the rapture for some time now, accidentally careful not to get swept up in the obliteration of poetry. Books arrived and got set aside in the swirl of life and death. This one, Avoiding the Rapture, by Karen J. Weyant, came in November, while I was gone, helping my daughter have a baby. It was the month my mother died, and it took me the next month to open all the sympathy cards. And months more to open this package from Pennsylvania. But now it’s April, and here I am, in full celebration.

It’s a gorgeous, scary book, leaving me grateful among the survivors she instructs on how to stay alive. “Snag your new tights with rough edges of your fingernails,” she advises in “Tips for Young Girls Hoping to Avoid the Rapture.” Yes, I used to do that, and I’m still here! “When everyone disappears, everything you see will be yours.” Yes, my mother’s earrings, her baby bracelets, her throw pillows, her china, her shoes.

Obviously, the book is not about me. It’s about Rust Belt girls, and families struggling to survive as factories close, farms fail, banks foreclose, and fathers leave. Everybody gets religion, all on one day, it seems, a convenient last resort. But not everybody wants to go. The poet wants to save whomever she can, down to the crows, down to the roadkill. She’s all for shoplifting the ChapStick or lipstick you can’t afford, whatever soothes or sparkles, whatever keeps you here. Alive.

Or helps you escape. Alive. A child of eight imagines herself as a “roadside weed” plucked up for another family’s bouquet, one way out. In “The Girl Who Parted Mill Creek With Her Toes,” a child steeped in religion can say, “I flexed my toes in the water and waves parted / around my ankles.” She knows her power, and that it might not be enough to prevent a “mass exodus,” but that life goes on.

I’ve seen some of these poems before, here at Escape Into Life, in other journals, and in two of Weyant’s chapbooks, but here they gather themselves with all of childhood’s passion and innocence, savvy and confidence, fear and trembling, clear yet magical thinking. This is a “Girl Who Can Hear the River Talk,” a Cassandra who can foresee disaster, a creature of nature who can grieve the loss of nature in advance.

Avoiding the Rapture is brutal and heartbreaking. It sees the truth of  “mothers who teach their daughters to cut away / but slice apples with knife blades coming toward them.”  It is innocent, as in “Still Life With Best Friend and Scarecrow,” about a fearless girl and a dangerous boy:

           Stalking, we would call it now.
     But back then, we wouldn’t
     have known the word. We would
     have thought it had something
     to do with corn.

And wonderfully tender, as in “My Summer as Siphoned Gas,” where a boy who needs to steal fuel also needs and wants to offer protection:

          Turning away my offer to help,
     he picked up my chin, looked at my sunburned lips.
     Even a small cut, he said, will sting.

Shoplift that ChapStick, girls. Wear whatever you want. Don’t let the Rapture steal you away from what you want and need here on earth. 


Avoiding the Rapture at Riot in Your Throat

Karen J. Weyant at EIL

Mini-Review of Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt at EIL


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