The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Drop Jaw by Rikki Santer


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Stephanie Erdman, is from Drop Jaw by Rikki Santer, released by NightBallet Press in 2020. 

 Figure Makers

               Brothers George & Glenn McElroy are considered the
               Stradivariuses of ventriloquist figure makers.  It’s estimated
               that only 30 of their creations from the 1930/40s exist today.

Palimpsest of fingerprints
on a legacy of head sticks
& levers from master
machinist & artist brother—
intricate doings lying
in wait for the flash
& the flaunt.

Candies & cakes pale
next to Jacko the talking monkey,
wild elf atop Russian hurdy gurdy—
he’s another Cadillac of a dummy,
Fabregé of sweet gears.

Magical apparatus these
strange gifts, temporal &
timeless, every McElroy
offspring: Cecil, Ollie,
Dudley & Troll, man-sized
animatronic named Umpire.

Poetry in hacksaw & sander,
monkey business in eyes
crossing, ears wiggling,
tongues sticking out.

In the museum Jacko poses—
wunderkind spirit,
parody in an organ grinder’s suit,
perhaps pining
for a full moon’s treetop.

All Figure Makers step back,
leave us to the clockwork
of our days, vulnerable
machines in silence.



Rikki Santer’s poetry has received many honors including six Pushcart and three Ohioana and Ohio Poet book award nominations as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her eleventh poetry collection, Stopover, which is in conversation with the original Twilight Zone series, was recently published by Luchador Press. She is also a member of the teaching artist roster of the Ohio Arts Council, a vice president of the Ohio Poetry Association, and a member of the poetry troupe Concrete Wink.

Stephanie L. Erdman graduated Purdue University and received her master’s degree through Indiana University. Her first poetry collection, Pyrrhonic, is available through Dos Madres Press and her second collection, Sankhara, is upcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press. Stephanie describes her style as anything with music and novelty. Stephanie lives in Northwest Indiana and works as a professor of English, editor, and professional tutor. She lives in Benton Harbor, Michigan with her dog, cat, 18 chickens, a transient partner, and persistent impostor syndrome.

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