Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Brent Ameneyro, A Face Out of Clay: Poems



the Cyclops sometimes appears as an angry school principal
who yells at the boy in Spanish
until a large vein splits his forehead

into two hemispheres
and his dark brown skin

becomes the earth
the boy sails away until he finds a new land
with bright green grass

which is actually artificial turf for a soccer field
he comes across Poseidon
who is a goalie
that punches the ball with a closed fist

Penelope is a blonde second grader back in California
Calypso is a Mexican girl who teaches a boy to dance

I was curious to see the full-length debut by Los Angeles poet and editor Brent Ameneyro, following the chapbook Puebla (Ghost City Press, 2023), A Face Out of Clay: Poems (Fort Collins CO: The Center for Literary Publishing, 2024). A Face Out of Clay is a collection of first-person lyrics that explores context as well as form, attempting to define the self, especially between the seeming-poles of two distinct cultural considerations, between Mexican and American, overlaying other literary considerations across his own narratives, from Greek Odysseus to Ulysses. As he writes to open the poem “ULYSSES IN PUEBLA”: “He cleans his lips with two wipes / of his Jorge Campos jersey. / Damn that new kid in school. / Damn him. Hope he trips / and can’t play for a few weeks.” Across these poems, Ameneyro is first and foremost a storyteller, examining the American experience through the lens of his own Mexican background, providing echoes similar to that of Mexican American poet, editor and teacher Jose Hernandez Diaz’s recent full-length debut, Bad Mexican, Bad American (Cincinnati OH: Acre Books, 2024) [see my review of such here]. Ameneyro might utilize that initial and simultaneous dual connection and disconnect as a kind of foundation for the collection as whole, he quickly furthers his reach by offering perspectives and insights into examples from the larger, surrounding population, each of whom are looking for some human way to connect. “Nobody stopped to ask / if you are lonely // on the long drive home. / You are so calm,” he writes, to open the poem “TO THE GUY WHO DRESSED A MANNEQUIN AND PROPPED IT UP IN / THE PASSENGER SEAT TO USE THE CARPOOL LANE,” “so still // as you look beyond everyone, / past the illusion of daylight; it’s hard to tell // where the black of your eye ends / and the infinite black of the universe // begins. Who sat there before?” In a very fine collection, debut or otherwise, Ameneyro displays himself as a narrative collage-artist, attending elements from all directions while holding still to that relatively straightforward through-line, which allows any lyric and drift to remain purposeful, propulsive. “Hidden above the ash / in the sky,” he writes, as part of “ULYSSES IN PUEBLA,” “a red-legged honeycreeper wanders / the empty space.”


No comments: