Thursday, August 31, 2023

Kimberly Reyes, vanishing point


I know the misappropriation
of American gothic

how Blackness seeds
the bayou

of unburied fruit,

rice in the Carolinas
white-rife with grief.

I also know better—perhaps,
what it is to hold a man’s knives,

have the ancestors scare away the vampires
reclaiming land over Calypso tunes,

Keaton’s zebra snake Hoodoo. (“Tim Burton says I’m not his aesthetic”)

Kimberly Reyes’ third poetry title, and second full-length, following Warning Coloration (dancing girl press, 2018) and the powerful Running to Stand Still (Oakland CA: Omnidawn, 2019), is vanishing point (Omnidawn, 2023). I had attempted to make notes on Running to Stand Still when it appeared, but the timing of the book fell into the black hole of attention during caregiving weekends across my father’s decline, so a review never did actually happen. Just to say: Running to Stand Still was an impressive collection, and you should completely read it. This latest book, vanishing point, was composed, as her author biography offers, “while splitting her time between San Francisco, Ireland, and her hometown of New York City,” feeling out an articulation of layerings of a cultural sense of between-ness, including her connection to multiple points but not feeling entirely at home in any one. Her writing is staccato, precise. As she writes as part of “The Great Race Place”: “our wildness / clutches the race card. // After hoof, / soot, utility / has caked / into a brown ‘U’ // a bulb dims over the pedigreed / in the waste plant //  an unassuming man / avoiding razed eyes // skins the bodies.” She writes of ghosts, and magpies; she writes of Atlantic crossings, and invisible distances. She writes of hypens, such as in the poem “A hyphen is a rejection of negative space,” that includes: “I am the construct of some unwinnable race / a DNA scar tissue / warning coloration // a who we are, tongues out, / backs bent [.]” Reyes writes of disappearance, even as certain of the text begins to fade, while simultaneously declaring herself present across such slipperiness, situated in a space deemed incomplete, invisible or beyond. There is a way in which Reyes’ lyrics demand and declare, solidifying this perceived otherness into a direct presence. “I worry mi gente will never see me if I don’t speak Spanish      but why / demonize dad,” she writes, to open the poem “Upon the realization that I don’t have a natural habitat.” A few lines further, adding: “why should he had             it’s not his people’s language             anyway, not / anymore than English is mine // 23&Me can’t make me pronounce an old world.” Reyes works to write her way back into view, or to write enough to be seen, before she completely disappears.


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