Elaine Kahn
Glass Eye Books/Ecstatic Peace Library, 2010

Reviewed by Ally Harris

[Review Guidelines]

On the periphery of Customer is a lover, and Elaine Kahn is the Customer to that lover, the observer of truths, maker of base observations. The Customer has an eye for truth when truth is the moment after you spit gum in someone's hair and realization that you did it because you want to be their friend; how an ocean "spanks up" to your chest in the otherwise still of a perfect beach. The Customer sees the irrevocably fucked truths, and she candies them out like a clarity factory—

My eyes have a mouth
my ear has a windshield
look at that stick bug
it has eyes everything
is the same

Although we readers get a sense she's leaving something out. Despite her boldness and proclivity for the grotesque (her own mode of tenderness and openness is worms and fucking, fucking and shoving, fungi and tendril-sucking), there are things even the bold Customer can't say.
      The "blue-pocked floor" of childhood and teen-hood is another species of longing in Customer, another sort of song-like obstacle against our perfect hearing of the principal transmission (lover/loved). "Everything is the same," Kahn writes. And that "everything is the same" is tragic. Take "Prom":

You tell me to get in bed
to turn the light on
your skin like a soft paper bag
your lips like two soft paper bags

I'm lonely, I say
I hated that dinner

I know, you say

Light falls down
like we are in two
canopy beds

What even do I have to say about "Prom"? That I wish dinner wasn't tied to prom, I wish it were any dinner, a New York dinner, whatever, that "prom" specifies the experience too much, but that I love the tragedy and simplicity of "I hated that dinner," that the best of Customer feels simple but charged. I like when the fucked truth and the just-plain-fucked have equal weight on the seesaw—when the sex happens because we realize Kahn can snuffle no more at her trough of emotions, and we must make what we can of the tongue, hem, thigh of the Lover-Customer relationship, of their psychology.
      Kahn writes, "I fight like a spider in the shower. I wipe my hands on the buttery print." Customer is arachnid and buttery, and her verbs make even the most ordinary scenarios grim and unsettling.