Book Review: Girl Torpedo
A Review of Emari DiGiorgio's Girl Torpedo by Miguel Soto
Emari DiGiorgio’s Girl Torpedo is an unapologetic trial of close-quarter relationships, exposing the dynamics between individuals who share a participation of abuse, either through observing, acting, or receiving this verbal or physical treatment. What the reader is left with is an image of trauma unresolved. Although some experiences go unresolved, the confession and transparency offered is an acceptance of vulnerability, opening an avenue towards healing.
In “This Hammer I’ve Inherited,” the symbolic weight of the tool disintegrates with the speaker’s confessional voice, exposing layers within power dynamics, particularly when looking at relationships between abusers and the abused. The speaker detaches any positive connotations the tool may hold as a power symbol:
Heavy tool at my belt,
The tool’s inability to create or repair points to the user, and it is the user who admits to herself, “always / the girl quick to strike / with my mouth,” leaving the speaker with a symbol of power that only molds fatal consequences. The tool, being an inheritance, reveals how power is a learned trait, but even so, the idea of power hides behind the symbol of the “hammer,” covering the traces of abuse:
It is the speaker’s confessional experience that depicts the materialization of the abusive qualities that follow from the speaker:
I can be
Intergenerational exchanges of abuse are made clear through the dynamics illustrated in the house, where the speaker receives “backhands,” and rather than sublimating, the speaker reciprocates, responding with “wrecking” and “judgement,” demonstrating the relationship between abusers and the abused. The abused become the abusers, furthering the cycle of violence and trauma: “yelled war instead / of peace.”
DiGiorgio’s speaker continues with the conceit of the “hammer,” demonstrating the extension of abuse outside of where it is taught and learned. In moving beyond the “ranch house” image, the speaker crosses a new terrain: “I’ve taken a bridge, / removed the nails, stolen / all the other hammers too,” signifying the removal of power by force. The expectation of fatal consequences already set, leaves this image to follow suit, leaving the speaker with, “smashed finger and thumb.”
Much in the way that power can be taken by force, it can also be willingly given: “I gave it / to a long-haired boy with light eyes.” DiGiorgio exposes complex layers that come from the possibilities in relationships as DiGiorgio shifts the reader from familial dynamics to partnerships, and possibly anyone who stands in the way. Ultimately, the power that comes in the form of abuse, which the speaker gives to the “long-haired boy,” is, once again, reciprocated, forcing the speaker to regret her decision: “begged / on my knees to get it back.”
In all this turmoil, the speaker leaves the reader with a “survey of the damage,” but with the intention of leaving the reader with hope to hinge on, like the image of someone “[venturing]” into the turmoil to, “pull / tree limbs from car hoods / and shingles impaled / like crooked tombstones.” Except, the person in charge of rebuilding is an ambiguous “someone,” who “[gets] the ladder / and then the work [will] start,” showing that the person in charge of delivering redemption is not the speaker, or another mentioned person(s) who committed the abusive behaviors in earlier lines, but possibly the receiver of the abuse. The point being that abusers are not the ones who dictate when healing begins, or when resolution arrives.
Emari DiGiorgio’s Girl Torpedo is a testament to living and coping with what many people leave unsaid, and it is the speaker(s) in DiGiorgio’s collection of poems who find empowerment in exposing their truths. Exposure acts as an individuals’ response toward individual and community healing, leaving the individuals involved to be subject to outside judgment and critique, but with the intention of questioning and resolving the behaviors and characteristics which perpetuate layers and generations of trauma. Girl Torpedo is, for the reader, an exploration of the imposed silence that often resides within traumatic experiences, not only to fuel understanding, but to fuel action, to fuel the voice lying dormant inside: the voice waiting to rise out of silence into cathartic song.
Miguel is the Asst. Managing Editor and Book Reviews Editor for Jet Fuel Review. As an editor, one of his main concerns is giving a space to marginalized voices, centralizing on narratives often ignored. He loves reading radical, unapologetic writers, who explore the emotional and intellectual stresses within political identities and systemic realities. His own writings can be found in OUT / CAST: A Journal of Queer Midwestern Writing and Art, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Rogue Agent. He writes for the Jet Fuel Review blog in Not Your Binary: A QTPOC Reading Column.