People are paying attention to Florida. It’s strange, sultry, and water-logged pores are finding their way to the popular consciousness– Lauren Groff wrote in her short story collection Florida that the state was an “Eden of dangerous things,” while Kirsten Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things was an unruly novel borne of swamp and scaly, half-choked love. I am from Florida. I cut my teeth here in the cold water springs, the weird, tripped-out bonfire parties, and the boom-and-bust development of resorts and tourist traps. My suspicion of books about Florida is second nature; I approached Jessica Jacobs’ Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going with caution–maybe its murky pages were full of gators. I was surprised to find my own restless, complicated love for Florida pounding in Jacobs’ intimate collection.

In the poem, “To Florida” Jacobs writes:

______In the citrus light of winter, I stole oranges
from your trees; through your white sand, tore
bike tracks ragged as rope burn. In you, I was a primal thing.
______________________________________________For years,
__I carried a keychain in your image, my name
   stamped along its length.
_______________We were always claiming you,
weren’t we?

[…]

All I wanted was to grow old enough to leave you.
________Florida, we never had a chance (20).

Jacobs’ tug-and-pull confessional to Florida snakes throughout Take Me with You long after she escapes to New York, the Midwest, mountain cabins and beyond. Location, and the restlessness of staying, is the heart of this collection. Her childhood was spent treading pond water, playing by sun-drenched sinkholes, and lapping up her desire for other girls. With the newness of puberty, Jacobs hardens her heart (“just one more thing to carry”) and watches a plane passing over her head, thinking “Take me with you, wherever you’re going.”

Jacobs does leave Florida, but little by little she sheds her desire to run away. Instead, Jacobs transforms her desire to escape into a willingness to follow. As her relationship to her wife unfolds, Jacobs revisits Florida with a new tenderness her child self lacked. Now exploring rather than running, Jacobs and her wife span emotional, physical and geographical states of being. Their love is a lush reveal of body-bent grass, yellow dahlias, and red eye flights matched with Jacobs’ deft restraint and efficiency of language. 

In “Elopement Epithalamium,” Jacobs describes their  night together as newlyweds on a midnight flight:

______And so, awake and watching every moment
________of that flight, I can say with certainty
_____________we departed one day, landed in another
and disembarked in another state entirely (53).

Always, Jacobs tells us her life as a constant state of fluctuation. Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going is a love letter to and beyond Florida, a slow burn story of desire and homage. 

 

Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going
By Jessica Jacobs
Four Way Books
Paperback, 9781945588266, 128 pp.
March 2019


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