Juan Felipe Herrera's collection Giraffe On Fire is dense and awesome. It's political and inescapable. It's tight image and unattributed dialogue. I'm going to have to read this book three or four times to properly tell you why it's about. What you should read it to. But read it.
The book is divided into five parts. Each with their own style of formatting. The first part starts off with stage directions setting you up for a play. Which had me thinking of when I used to work in the theater. The summer that everything fell apart and the winter where I tried to put it back together but only succeeded in dispersing what had fallen. I have enough poems about the dead boyfriend, not as many about the aftermath without him.
Honey Is Sweeter Than Blood
The stairs don't skin
Your skin on some stair
The bottom is coming
Laugh at the innuendo
The lobby is barren
Drops of your blood
The green room
Your face is no worse than before the stairs
Up this time
No more falling
The music is vamp
They do not ask about the blood
The blood makes sense
You die on stage
They pack you in the empty Coke machine
Roll back out
Descend the stairs
Off comes the jacket
The chain catches on Ow
Your knees a planetarium
Another actor comes downstairs
Lost in the planetarium
Fetch the solarcaine
The rest of the show you're someone else
Scheduled for wheelchair
Blanket over your fishnetted lap and legs
One more up the stairs
One more down
You hit your marks
You hit your notes
Your planetarium is stunning in hot pink fishnets
The cute guy from the audience
You chose him
You mocked him
You touched his ears
-oh god- his mother?
His mother takes a picture of you
Him black pants
Him pressed shirt
Him teeth so can opener
You hot pink fishnets
Teeth still remember the shape of braces
They are starting to drift to unique
Him see ya
You undressing room
Mirror too much lipstick
Hair looks like gravity suspended
Maybe him see ya
You are not an immediate pedestal. Though he steps on you. Didn't tell anyone how you touched him when you met. How you misread your course schedule and walked into him playing hacky-sack. The 90s hit you on your chest and you let it roll down and rest on your shoe. There are so many feet between you. Your heart a jam band. You'll stop listening to it in a few years.
You meet someone else
He smells like a jam band but
looks like Maybe.
You do not touch him anywhere.
You invite him to your birthday.
your 21st birthday
It's karaoke night at your usual
bar where no one is allowed to tell the bartender
you're just turning twenty-one
The kitchen is The Library of Alexandria
There is a hard rain falling from
every sprinkler in the ceiling
Karaoke is finally ruined by something
other than bros
Your acting professor offers his favorite bar
because his directions make no sense
A bar across from the lot
where you bought your current car
The only building there has blacked out wind---
The noise level
The only dancing
The only under forty
You've got great rhythm
Pity you don't know what to do with it
Your glancing at Maybe
Who would you bring to Plato's retreat
Reference to a scene I'm working on
He saw you glancing at Maybe
Maybe more than glancing
Walk to bar
Fifty year old somebody stranger
Don't see Maybe
Dance to classmates
They are kool-aid in tap water
This whole bar is us colored
But you can't see anyone you recognize
Somebody twirls you
Maybe the front door
Line dancing now
Achy Breaky Heart
Forward Heel Touch
Forward Heel Touch
Back Toe Touch
Back Toe Touch
You and Hacky Sack start a poetry journal. You and Maybe work at a renaissance faire. Your house has two beds. One for you. One for the men you're afraid to sleep with. On your twenty-second birthday you've still told neither of them a thing about your heart. They don't know your first real boyfriend died a month before you met them. They don't know that on the nights they don't sleep over you go online and fail to love anyone. You have failed so many people who came back.
You invite them both over for drinks and discover they went to high school together. Maybe thinks Hacky Sack is great. Hacky Sack tells you Maybe bullied him in high school. At least you think if they're both gay or bi or whatever anyone is they are unlikely to fuck each other and not you. You selfish. You stupid. Them straight. ish. But straight to you.
Maybe knows before you come out to him. Tries to fix you up with irritating gay friend. Apologizes for assuming all gay people would like all other gay people even though you haven't explicitly used the word gay just said that you loved him. He knew.
You spend a month with Hacky Sack at a new college. He hasn't left you. He has moved. He sort of took you with him. Four hour trips twice a month. Peacocks in the schoolyard. Bad poetry. Terrible poetry. A girl in his class whose meter is so off you know Hacky Sack must love her. He loves her. She hates you. He loves you. But not like that. She hates you. Like that. She knows. He doesn't. She calls you faggot. Nobody calls you that. You don't even know how to react. They fight. You sleep in your car. He knocks on your window. You sleep in his room. She sleeps in her room. Nobody touches anyone. They break up.
She pregnant. They back together. They fuck. They fuck. They fuck. She confesses never pregnant. They fight. They break up. She pregnant. You call her liar. You misogynist. You never liked her. You sabotage. But no she not pregnant this time either. You drive home. He calls you. He drives to your home. You get high. You watch The Wizard Of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. You cliche. Him cliche. You put your arm around him. He leans in to your arms. You happy. Him drive back to school. Him e-mail. Doesn't call you faggot. Implies it. Never speaks to you again.
Maybe calls. Drives to your home. Puts arms around you. Not into you. Friend. Offers to start bullying Hacky Sack for real. You laugh. At him. At self. At laughter.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.