Tracing Your Ribs

First published in Ribbons 1:3, Autumn 2005, page 21. In 2010, the following book was republished, in a bilingual French/English edition,
retitled as
Your Hands Discover Me, with the following review as its introduction (slightly revised from the following for its appearance in the book).

Tracing Your Ribs by Claudia Rosemary Coutu. 14 pages, self-published, 2004. Available for $7.00 postpaid in U.S. funds or $9.00 postpaid in Canadian funds from the author at 49 McArthur Avenue, Carlton Place, ON K7C 2W1, Canada.

This unassuming and simple book surprises with its openness and intensity, both borne of heady passion. Tracing Your Ribs is a collection of 33 tanka that explore the love, sexuality, and eroticism—not necessarily in that order—of a chance encounter on a road trip. The Canadian author tells of crossing the border into New York, where we learn the following:


the Canadians once beat the pants

off the Americans here

I use

more gentle strategies

Some poems are overt in their eroticism:

I hold the pear afternoon sun

in one hand all the plastic

then the other in the car too hot to touch

your cool palms there you are

on my breasts inside of me

Other poems offer relative restraint:

lines of cut hay full moon

follow rising through cedars

the curved hills it is like that

my fingers brief glimpses

tracing your ribs then fullness

Though affairs of the body may not please everyone as a subject, the book is unabashedly—perhaps refreshingly—frank:

so many drivers French Canadian Customs Officer

never get the idea you didn’t buy ‘anything’?

of the fast lane he blushed when I said no

it all depends I have been making love

on lace underthings for the past twenty four hours

These poems are not the usual love topics common to tanka, obliquely hinted at, but poems of direct and wanton passion. As the author says of her encounter in the book’s brief introduction, “Everything is changed; all seems alive, immediate, urgent.” The reader may feel a similar urgency, and perhaps envy, after reading through this breathy and breathless tanka collection. That Tracing Your Ribs may be capable of producing envy testifies to the engagement and honesty of these poems.