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Shout Out to Neil de la Flor
Winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, Almost Dorothy is a queer debut, to say the least. Like Dorothy in the land of Oz, the figure who inhabits much of this book is dreaming up a world of metaphors and signifiers: “You inflate the balloon (home) with helium (memories) until the outer surface becomes exquisitely uniform.”
Communication and expression are players in the theater of the absurd; every word, like every person in the book, is an unreliable narrator and devilishly elusive: “Only when his beloved companion Alberto Giacometti (as Patroklos) is killed by the Trojan prince Salvador Dalí (as Hector) does Albert Einstein (as Achilles) return to battle, smoldering for revenge.// And just like that things changed.”
Though much of the work resists conventional narrative, there is a story here–indeed a journey along a yellow brick road–of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality, desire, relationships, and fetishes. Language is one of these compulsions since what better seduction than what waltzes off the tongue, and what more formidable frenemy than one’s very own mouth?
Sweetmeat is so goopy in the mouth, pulpy
and sentimental, goat-licked. All things
flaccid, I have no rigmarole left, only my sordid
lover to melt me down for fructose. Fructed out.
Your sweetmeat slick as grease goes down
a rearing hog’s hock. So I am hocked.
Sincerely. I wish every hard bent scorpion
on this earth will jab their hell-pincers in your eyes.
Eyes are myopic: two eyes. I will chew mine
in bed, I will slosh toward the dirty college
and fold the sheets in this porno of never
loving you. Because it is a chewing,
because today’s cleavage is another life’s
straightjacket. This shag baby dethreads life.
I keep threading the same Singer. Thread
and needle, Lucite and sphinx, I have no
fur but couldn’t be hairier. Please,
don’t come any closer. I am sorry my slab
is all dystrophy and no muscle–the body
is a simple kind of bomb and language.
I like the naughtiness of de la Flor’s poetics: the speaker’s wordplay is double-speak and double-entendre, and no dust ever settles on a single meaning. Almost Dorothy is a challenging and unsettling reading experience, but there are plenty of cues and clues along the way to keep the reader constantly alert and sometimes startled: “At age 13, Frida Kahlo joined the Communist Party. Inspired by the Mexican Revolution, she fell in love with a cactus and a pig. Shortly after her death, the hieroglyphs in Egypt were decoded. They all read, Diego.”