Image from PushBack, by Richard L. Rose
I always carry my bones by Felicia Zamora, University of Iowa Press, 2021.
Insistence is not confirmation. Whatever one insists that poetry is, a poet like Felicia Zamora readily disconfirms. Like Dr. Joanna Lee, another poet of the body (in Dissections, 2017), who says that “poetry/ is always barefoot, even / over broken glass,” Zamora breaks into definitions. She “breaches etiquette” meant to keep her out. Like Dr. Williams, laying out the great body of Paterson before dissecting it, she shows us her body, which is our body, which is our country: “heart of reeds, lung/ of dew, stomach of grasses, what dwells/ in land dwells in you,” a well-known country—Whitman territory, where “all are part of the procession.” But even language conspires to keep migrants out: “the oppressor’s language has been pre-configured to defeat you—a language which does not give you the right to speak—certainly not to make poems.” The Church Ladies do their good deeds with circumspection, looking for “something worthy to give/ a kid like me. Something almost broken / almost breathing.” With Blakean leaps from sharp images of weathered bones, or the chrysalis of a migrant Monarch butterfly who wears “a belt of earthly stars in ornament,” or the razors handed out “for one more go home wetback” to prophetic social criticism, Zamora insists on her own definitions. The exclusive constructs of language, the certainties of pseudoscience like craniometry, and the skeletal remains of careless research beneath the parking lots of Lee’s medical school are “wounds of bodies made inferior with labels,” whereas those very bodies proclaim how “our organs in skeletal structures connect us beyond your labels.” A personal story and a national story, told in a rushing, fragmented style with words like expose, stun, sever, and relinquish suddenly becoming nouns in the way that countless daily cuts and gestures continually bring the migrant or outsider up short, this collection is also a celebration of a different kind of body politic—and of how to grow into it. “We all grow out of something,” she says, thinking of doors slamming shut behind her; “thinking I had done something wrong to never warrant celebration,” but confident that human beings can “unlearn rules, draw a map that starts in fluid of your lungs,” and, instead of fearing all the other kinds of bodies, discover “awe in the limitlessness” of diversity. . #I always carry my bones #NetGalley