19.8.07

craving the secret corners...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Barbara Jane Reyes

[state of emergency]


To honor movement in crescendos of text, combing through ashes for fragments of human bone, studying maps drawn for the absurdity of navigation — what may be so edgy about this state of emergency is my lack of apology for what I am bound to do. For instance, if I dream the wetness of your mouth an oyster my tongue searches for the taste of ocean, if I crave the secret corners of your city on another continent, in another time, in series of circular coils extending outward, then it is only because I continue to harbor the swirls of galaxies in the musculature and viscera of my body. You will appear because I have mouthed your name in half-wish, reluctant to bring myself to you. You will appear for me, because you always do, with earthen skin outside the possibility of human causation.

*

Reyes is a strong voice in American poetry, and her latest work, Poeta en San Francisco, has made our literature far more absorbing. She brings to focus a language mythology that is universal, no doubt reflecting the blendings of her own world – born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. This poem reflects her remarkable attention to detail – combing through ashes for fragments of human bone, studying maps drawn for the absurdity of navigation, opening the piece for a more penetrating read. Her style is language-driven but very attuned to image.

The words and phrasing in this exemplary piece from the collection are rich with their textured sounds: the wetness of your mouth an oyster my tongue searches for the taste of ocean and continue to harbor the swirls of galaxies in the musculature and viscera of my body. A beautiful and real music. Readers are never removed from the physical world, never alienated.

She is a writer whose works demand to be read aloud. Maybe that is because her poetry is fresh, though certainly grounded in tradition, experimental though absolutely accessible, not off-putting in any way – world conscious in the best sense. Reyes’ work is personal and direct, as though a voice were in your head, sweeping you on to the end. And it’s a voice you believe, and will continue to listen to.

2 comments:

poet with a day job said...

well, you know I love her. This is a great excerpt...and she's a fantastic reader too.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Couldn't agree more. Thanks for the read, Melissa.