The Prophets

Cait Weiss Orcutt


Our father sees God in the ocean, a hillside.

The divine chucks itself on his surfboard.

 

Science unraveled the start of the world by noting all planets are drifting away.

 

At fifteen, I am all girl-flesh, no faith—

O body. The globe of it expanding. New creases & out into space.

 

Science echoes the sprawl of a teen’s day / heart / or god.

Mom wakes in-patient from an overdose,

 

slides out into space. I want:

the boy who plays drums to begin to painfully love me.

 

I drag my body to a Day of Obligation. Our father asks:

Can you proofread my prophecy? Something hope.

 

Something loss. At sixteen, I have wounds on each wrist.

Tiny stigma, stigmata. Mom comes to in a red room,

 

feet bent back & she’s smiling.

She comes to me in the beige leather front seat of her Honda.

 

Mom tells: I have a secret you can’t ever share.

All of life is the secret, & the porn, & the spheres she drives forward:

 

chatroom lovers, knifepoint shoes, white-knuckle sober.

As she unwinds, I fold inwards.

 

I fold inwards. O Earth, you are still too young & keening.

You do not know yet how to swallow the universe without tasting.



In Praise of VALLEYSPEAK

“Valleyspeak is both exorcism and re-enchantment. It’s also a collection of mesmerizing coming-of-age visions that emerge from the world of L.A. daughters, ‘Sweet Valley / Ophelias, who haven’t quite / drowned.’ In this world of cars, swimming pools, porn, pills, and beautiful parents distracted by their own desires, Cait Orcutt unravels secrets of addiction and abandonment that are personal, familial, and cultural. A re-angler of the ‘mind’s film,’ she unravels and detoxifies the Valley’s intoxicating spells as she magically re-makes them.”

​–Mary Szybist


“Cait Weiss Orcutt’s Valleyspeak takes place in the suburbs of 1990s Los Angeles and in the sociopolitical chaos of that time and place: the Rodney King beating, the L.A.riots, the O.J. Simpson trial. Valleyspeak follows a family of four in deftly crafted poems that privilege hard truths and take the narrative and formal risks required to reveal them. This collection—part tenderness, part bared teeth—is as much about growing up as it is about breaking down. It is peak and valley. Valleyspeak is an electric debut.”

–Maggie Smith


"Excellent poets build their own ecologies in which to work, and Cait Orcutt is an excellent poet. In Valleyspeak, she gives us Los Angeles as an entire ecosystem. The flora: lilies, fields of concrete, dry chunks of bark in a girl’s hand. The fauna: hummingbirds, insects with names like Consuelo, Miranda, and Rachel, and two sisters growing up in the middle of it all, fishing 'whole futures from stank / waters.' Orcutt has, with great generosity and formal precision, given us a map to this land of her making, to the home she’s (re)discovered there. Home—that’s the nucleus around which all these poems orbit. 'What a race / of pretending, // to think anyone gets away.'"

​Kaveh Akbar


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