Through the voices of undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents, and scorned lovers, award-winning poet Eduardo C. Corral writes portraits of contradiction and survival. These poems traverse desert landscapes cut through by migrants, the grief of loss, betrayal’s lingering scars, and the border itself—great distances in which violence and yearning find roots.
An excellent second collection ... No matter what his subject, Corral is a gifted storyteller, precise and dizzying with his imagery ... I can’t help but linger over his finely-wrought phrases that anchor each poem ... Corral can capture a world in a poem’s single scene ... An accomplished book in both style and sense.
A striking long poem is one of the anchors of this book. In 'Testaments Scratched Into a Water Station Barrel,' Corral gives voice, in Spanish and English, to migrants as well as to a few racists. The poem asks us to imagine each page as one of the fifty-five-gallon water stations set up by a nonprofit to help migrants survive in the desert. Corral’s texts are 'scratched' onto the surface of the tank, each inscription effacing the last. Every new poem feels like an arena for survival; we imagine a person either desperate to live or eager to kill. Reduced to its bluntest purpose, all writing is a form of graffiti, an assertion that we exist in this time and place. These 'found' poems of Corral’s arrive damaged, their syntax sometimes broken into mismatched columns, the type smudged or overwritten, but their strange beauty remains intact ... you find, everywhere, poems about the periodicity of desire, its alternating flights and crashes, in both private and political spaces ... In an extraordinary poem, 'Córdoba,' Corral reaches out toward his reflection in a mirror, but stops just before his fingertips meet.
... a complex examination of the body as the principal site for pleasure, pain, violence, and everything that goes on in the intellect ... Corral imagines himself into his subjects’ bodies and minds; his poems restore identities to people who have been brutalized into anonymity and personalize the experiences of migrants to readers who may otherwise think of them as statistics. Corral doesn’t limit his concern to the tortured body, though pain is central to the way he occupies his own body, and to his conception of desire ... For Corral’s speaker, these are the two sides of desire. You may lose yourself in your present, so absorbed that you believe the lover can be consumed; you may also be so aware of yourself as seen by the other, or of your body, that the encounter feels unbearable.