My Sister's Father

My Sister’s Father is an American Gothic. In a world of plenty and waste, these poems go behind the closed doors of an affluent, suburban household to expose its foundation in unspeakable violence. My Sister’s Father tries to find a language to capture the crisis as it breaks and the walls come closing in.

Black Lawrence Press, October 2017

Black Lawrence Press, October 2017


“These nearly weaponized poems manifest what it’s like to be caught in a trap where family, money, and world have turned against each other, and no one, not even the reader, can touch a single object “without touching the consequence.” These are poems of singular shipwreck in the wake of a collective crisis that pulls every piece of personal debris into its maelstrom. How do we grieve the gap between the true and the false signatories? Gardiner shows, bravely, deeply, that poetry is how we, is what survives.” 



"Christine Gardiner writes, “The telling of the seeing broke the crisis.” Here is a book that illumines the ways the disaster exceeds every limit, even as it simultaneously, constantly arrives. And when the crisis breaks? Language becomes a sounding veil through which  we might "listen without knowing what for." My Sister’s Father is a lamentation, an underworld dirge, a primer for how to walk through the dark corridor in the empty house during the longest night.

The only thing to do now is to read this book again."



"The surreal horror of this family constellation (the father is seen stitching “a match-book car-bomb into my sister’s intestines”) becomes a kind of trampoline for Gardiner’s amazing leaps: “my feet were set in concrete,/ and I turned so slowly from one problem/ to the other that I was frozen solid/ at their center, and the whole world/ came into an indolent orbit around me.” 

These leaps of language and imagination take us to “another country” where “time comes and goes without a ticket.” Here, in this freedom, “time is the infinitive.” Hence, with the logic of grammar, the infinite—and even humor becomes possible: “And you sense the swollen heart/ first plummet, then rise/ to the still, scarred surface of being,/ where impermeable and quivering,/ inexplicable as the seraph,/ it quacks and buoys like a duck.”

An amazing and delightful book."







The backyard was a suburban diner wedged

between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The sky was strung between the signposts. The pine trees

smelled like vinyl. The hallway was a hot expanse

of highway that led only to another nowhere, where

I paced a moral spectrum, but that straight and narrow

alleyway soon turned into discovery:

the business of our sector was well lit but empty

and brutal forces were manipulating its periphery.

My sister lit a cigarette. She turned to me

and whispered through her breath, “What is the color of regret?”

Already she was drowning off the shore of judgment’s distant island

and I was driving straight to a policed state of despair, where

hot pink and forever, the vulva wept red

leather seats in the back of a parked convertible sports car.

Time went in and out of focus.

We were ten. She was eleven. I was twelve.

Bleeding through my underclothes.

The mind swam in boyfriends, and flesh swung from the bones of the old.

The dawn was cold and the lawn was frosted over with forgetting.

I caught my sister talking to the mirror eerily.

We love each other don’t we?

Then shut up and kiss me like TV.