Cuban American poet Jessica Guzman recently published her debut collection, Adelante. This book is full of things to discover, from lizards to manatees, orange jumpsuits to corals.
My father / in the hospital recliner, rolling oranges / across the t.v. tray towards me. Orange slit / I split. Orange slice I bite hard, hold / the sour under my tongue.
(from “Florida Orange”)
One main theme, as introduced in the first poem of the collection, “Florida Orange“, is Guzman’s father, memories of him, his illness and death. Like a fine thread this connects the poems in this collection, but does so with a light hand. These poems also pay attention to details where it matters, evoking Floridian (wild)life as the warp to the weft of mourning.
One such example is the poem “Portacath,” where the father’s body is overlaid with that of a manatee calf shown on TV, its stomach filled with ocean plastic. You can read the poem in full here at Quiddity. “Don’t Cry in the Canned Soup Aisle” is another such poem:
If the fist is the heart, / what to make of his palm / swollen with sickness, brown & spotted // like the coconuts he once threw / against asphalt. There was respect / then, the neighbor’s strapped shutters. // Tiptoeing as you did across the garage / to se a silhouette in the background / of his Vitruvian arms: the trick // of your ballerina feet, beheading roaches. (32)
Guzman’s precision of language (a quality I admire) permeates this collection. Here’s an example from “Register of Futures: Florida“:
The limestone crevasse like stale bread / & phosphogypsum butter, / one drawn gulp // under a power plant — / how the mangroves faint into her // jaws, butterfly kiss / the aquifer. From planes / tourists huzzah Our own moon crater, grip / their polyurethane backrests / to follow / the fishing boats’ diminishing arabesques, / & the stadium seats sneaking in / behind them — fiberglass frames / return the sun’s glare. (50)
If you’re looking for an evocative read, I highly recommend this. From the flaming bloom of poincianas to the ghostly shades of shed snake skin, from chlorine tablets thrown into pools to Happy Meals, this book is full of sensory images.
Jessica Guzman teaches creative writing and lives in Philadelphia. You can read more of her poems here: https://www.jgapoet.com/selected-work.html