Poetry for Southern California
We would like to welcome several new reviewers to the Poetix staff. Eric Morago has been writing for us for several years now. Nancy Shiffrin provided her first review in September. Also, look for reviews from Danielle Mitchell soon. As usual, I will continue to provide reviews on regular basis myself.
G. Murray Thomas, Senior Editor
Book by Daniel Romo
MOJAVE RIVER PRESS (www.mojaveriverpress.com)
Reviewed by Nancy Shiffrin
When Kerosene's Involved is a narrative of border crossing, both actual and spiritual. The parents slip and slide across the Mexico-United States border; the son glides across multiple narratives of English education, assimilation and return, never forgetting his origins, never forgetting what it took to get him to the place where he could joke, pun, narrate and ultimately sing the English language with a fine collection of work in print.
As an English and ESL teacher, I especially love poems that use grammar as a conceit. “PANCHO AS PROTAGONIST IN THE 9TH GRADE GRAMMAR BOOK“, clearly, concisely and ironically summarizes the themes of dislocation, poverty, upwardly mobile struggle as reflected in Middle School education.
PANCHO AS PROTAGONIST IN THE 9TH GRADE GRAMMAR BOOK
Pancho lives in Mexico with his family.
He sells Chiclets on the streets to help provide for them.
Pancho’s feet always ache. The soles of his sandals are sad.
It is not unusual for Pancho to hustle his gum upwards of ten hours a day, because even though he’s young, he understands the futility he faces. Nor is it unusual for his parents to search for ways to smuggle their family into Southernmost Cali, work their way upwards to Fresno where Fernando and his illegal clan pick grapes—sans fear of deportation because their boss knows what it’s like to feel half a human.
To feel like dirt. Lower than soil. Soot unfortunate ancestors’ bones are born into. A sedimentary caste.
Simple Sentence Review:
Pancho cries at night. He wipes tears before they hit the ground. He doesn’t want to wake his parents.
Sometimes the tourists pay him pity money for vacationing next to poverty, for traveling beside squalor, where Pancho and his family are currently/permanently living.
From the poem “Theory”, we understand that this border crossing encapsulates a Shoah of “broken glass”. Freud's sisters perished in concentration camps while he was saved, in spite of terminal cancer and addiction to morphine. “And if you picked up shards strewn about an alley, that might be the pieces of your sisters “.
The tone throughout is surreal, yet deeply spiritual, an assertion of the self as it is. In “DECLARATION” Romo prays, “And when we die, let’s come back as black sheep: an ostracized flock of herbivores feasting on grass we took for granted in that other life. Let’s hijack a meadow; ignore the sunlight that failed to see our shadows were gone. Our diet of dandelions groomed our incoming matted fleece, an unruly extension of our skin—the color of marriage between thunder and storm. Picture no shepherd to corral us. No reason to hide. No need to be shorn.” The poet accepts himself as bi-racial and bi-cultural. He has no need to be divested of his unruly dark skin. He appreciates the nurture he might have once taken for granted.
In the erotic/political poem “ATTRACTION” we begin to comprehend the collection's title. Two lovers are talking, The man explain the Mexican-American war: “The Mexican-American War was actually started over a woman...her name was Lupita Conchita de la Macarena. She... spread her thighs one too many times for a certain Anglo general. Her novio, Hilario the Hothead, took offense and killed the general’s mother. Saddled up his stallion and raided her place at dawn. Woke her from her dreams and doused her frail body in kerosene. Lit the fuse of her limbs until the blaze took apex in her stomach—her burning flesh the voice of her son’s transgressions. I say what a painful way to go. You kiss my cheek, run your hands down my chest, and whisper in my ear. Sizzle... Sizzle...”
Another border crossing. Another Shoah. A superb collection of necessary poetry, poetry that shocks us into another's pain and makes it universal. Poetry which asserts life with passion and commitment. Poetry worth the effort.
— Nancy Schiffrin