* constellating with danielle cadena deulen

ouremotions_bThis week I’m sharing a poem from Danielle Cadena Deulen’s book Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us which I reviewed earlier this week.

In my review I focused on how the poems in the collection have a particular way of approaching the self as a moment of awareness and interpolation. This week’s poem, “Constellation,” does this work via the immediacy of a speaker engaged in an address of memory and revelation. By weaving the narrative of a specific memory with the narratives the speaker carries about their friend, the poem creates its own constellation of vivid recollection.

What holds these materials together is the box-like conceptual form, which begins with the first words of the poem: I close my eyes and it’s you with the boy. From the darkness behind the speaker’s eyes arises the memory of the friend with an immediacy and emotional charge that evokes the book’s title; the reader is “carried” into the memories of the speaker. Yet, with the poem’s final image, which compares the night sky to a box, we are once again in darkness, captivated by the voice of the friend, who gets in the last fateful word.

Constellation – Danielle Cadena Deulen

I close my eyes and it’s you with the boy
in the rain, zipping up his pants in the green,
hulking shrubs. You, marching out

like a one-girl parade, your face so white,
red-cheeked-cold and smiling like you do when
you’ve got away with something,

while I stand there as speechless as a crushed
bottle in the lot behind the 7-Eleven with
the other boy, wating for you to return

and not kissing him because I’ve never been
kissed by anyone but you and he’s not
prety. He’s smoked four Marlboros, shamed

them all beneath a rubber sole and picked at
the pimples on his chin, asking stupid
questions like So, do you like movies? And,

Do you think they’re doing it now? As if the
thought of you unbuttoning his dirty jeans and
kneeling down in the gravel at the roots

of the bush might inspire me to prostrate
myself before him, too. You’re fast.
You’re so fast that almost no one can see you,

that flash across your face when your boy
doesn’t stumble out declaring his love, when
we don’t applaud. No one but me can see

that you think he’s left you already–like your
father, your mother’s boyfriend, the last boy
you kissed and the boy before him. You’ll quit

school before you get through them all.
Sixteen and already a gallery of lovers: Boy
with Car, Boy with Tattoo, Boy with Crystal

the boy who will leave money on your dresser
before he strides out your door, your face full
of sores, your teeth knocked out. He appears

behind you, encircles your waists, sucks on your
neck just to leave a mark. When we’re lying,
legs tangled together later than night,

I’ll touch the indefinite edges of his love-
bruise, a darkness surfacing from within your
pale skin. Of the boy, you’ll say, He says

he thinks I’m pretty, and the stars, far up
beyond a torn screen of clouds, They’re like
diamonds in a box that no one opens.


* insert crickets sound here *

Happy constellating!



P.S. Check out the giveaway below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


* new review up at The Volta Blog!

ouremotions_bJust a quick post to announce my latest book review up at The Volta Blog!

This time around I spend time with Danielle Cadena Deulen’s second collection, Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us (Barrow Street Press).

This review will be my last for The Volta Blog as they are closing shop. I learned a lot and had fun supporting some great books.

Reviewing for them made me brave enough to do my own microreviews & interviews for this blog (see: “Categories”).

Special thanks to Sally Whittier McCallum and Housten Donham for being great to work with.

See you Friday!


P.S. Also: check out the details of the new giveaway below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


* new review at The Volta Blog!

this-visit-295Just a quick note to share the publication of my review of This Visit by Susan Lewis. Check it out at The Volta Blog!

Here’s a link to “Dear Dear” (published at Ink Node) a poem from the second section of This Visit.

To find out more about Susan’s work, check out the poet’s site.

Happy Dear-ing!



* new book review

Just a quick post to announce my review of fellow CantoMundo poet Juan J. Morales’s powerful book, The Siren World!

Thanks to Sally & Housten at The Volta Blog for their continued support! Thanks also to Juan for writing such an engaging and heartfelt book!

To read a poem from The Siren World, check out this previous post on the Influence!

See you Friday!


* new review up at the volta blog

pink box

Just a quick note to share my latest review for The Volta Blog. This time around, I had the honor of reviewing fellow CantoMundo poet, Yesenia Montilla. It’s an inspiring book, one that adds to the conversation of the aesthetics and cultural understanding that come from engaging with one’s family history and traditions as well as one’s poetic traditions.

Also, two of Montilla’s poems – “Ode to a Dominican Breakfast” & “The Day I Realized We Were Black” – can be read at The Wide Shore.

See you Friday!


* review of natalie scenters-zapico’s the verging cities


* the verging cities *
* the verging cities *

This week’s poem, “After I Read Your Obituary,” is by fellow CantoMundista Natalie Scenters-Zapico. The poem comes from her collection The Verging Cities which I was fortunate enough to get to review for The Volta Blog. In my review, I focus on the phrase “Let me learn you how” (found early in the collection) as a key to open up the powerful reading experience Scenters-Zapico has worked out for us.

This week’s poem provides an example of what I mean in the way the speaker’s experience with reading an obituary comes to life for her and the reader through an expanding conceit and attention to detail. As the poem develops, so does the speaker’s engagement with the reality of the dead and the worlds that engagement creates.

Read my review of Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s The Verging Cities here.

After I Read Your Obituary – Natalie Scenters-Zapico

you crawl into bed with my husband
and me. Your body is smaller
than I remember; I hush your voice

when you complain: the aloe-vera
in the pot is made of plastic.
Your breathing grows, a weed

in monsoon—you whisper: mother,
father, and sister fell open as birds
in their chairs when they were shot

at dinner. You show me how
you dove under the table, felt specks
of their blood on your lips before

seeing the scuffs on your father’s leather
shoes. You tell me, you buried
your family in the walls of an abandoned

restaurant, so you could travel to my home
to measure the depth of my new weather-proof
windows. With the tip of the plastic

succulent I rub your swollen ears.
I tell you: in this new country I am worse
than the city of thousands dead,

I am a wound red with iodine. My husband
wakes and I beg him for water
I’ve never known to taste so clean.


See you next Friday!


* Rosa Alcalá’s Undocumentaries

Confessional Poem – Rosa Alcalá

The girl next door had something to teach me
about what to air: On the line
somebody’s business gets told
then recounted; it’s best to thread a tale
for the neighbors, an orchestration
of sorts. But I am far from modest
in my telling of lies. There are three references
I put forward: each a past lover
who liked a different kind of underling
to his genius. You wouldn’t know it
from the delicates I roll
into the yard. It’s all the same peek-a-boo lace
and stunted imagination. Of course,
all of this is scanty truth. Who hangs anything out to dry
anymore, when invention has halved the work?

* undocumentaries *
* undocumentaries *

Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed writing reviews for The Volta Blog. My latest review is of Rosa Alcalá’s Undocumentaries. The poem above is one example of how Alcalá digs out the complications to be found behind conventional metaphors. In my review, I break down the above poem, making connections with Sylvia Plath and the tasks (and consequences) a poet sets and works out for themselves.

Due to length considerations, I had to cut a bit of the original ending to the essay. Here’s a cut paragraph that I feel is essential in conveying my own personal connection with the collection:

“What goes unsaid in an essay like this – an essay which boils down to I read the poems, I thought about the poems – is worth considering given the Alcala’s idea of the “Undocumentary.” I read these poems for the first time in my thirty-second year of life. I am back in academia out of some sense of purpose or perhaps a need of one. I haven’t shared a house with my family for over fifteen years – in fact, it has been almost four years since I saw them. So much time apart and yet they keep coming up in my own poems. When Alcala writes about distance, I know what she means: it is the distance between family, a distance both physical and emotional, a distance of language and understanding. It is a distance one tries to cover through words because that is the only thing that is real to poets: real in its unreality.”

Check out the full review here.

Happy unrealiting!