For Want of Water

Sasha Pimentel. Beacon, $16 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-0-8070-2785-1
Rising from the heat of the Mexican-American border, Filipina-American Pimentel’s gripping and complex debut, a 2016 National Poetry Series winner, draws a line between the mirror cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, while the poet’s native Philippines looms in the background. These poems are marked by troubled love and ambivalence, particularly in regard to violence: “We say it’s the last, we say just one more./ We say the war we’re not responsible. We say// we won’t. Then we pull roses, petals leaking/ thread, red blossoming their glass tombs.” Such complicated feelings are not for Juárez alone. In El Paso, “Women and men rumble the distance,/ the television on but politely muted, walls/ glaring with the passing of the unnamed dead.” Through Pimentel’s gaze, readers are encouraged to see the body as a conflicted space of both tenderness and disaster. She excels at crafting a gorgeous language that drapes around the coarseness of the world; poems that confront the challenging topics of crack addiction, familial assault, and loss are suffused with an almost erotic sensuality. Even the cataloguing of mundane moments (dancing lessons, a Thai massage, air travel) explodes the everyday into a remarkably sumptuous landscape. The thirst to find benevolence inside brutality, just as one thirsts for oases in the desert, runs through these pages. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/18/2017
Release date: 10/17/2017
Genre: Fiction
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