cover image Patient Zero

Patient Zero

Tomás Q. Morín. Copper Canyon, $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-493-9

In 24 free verse dispatches from the markets, parks, and restaurants that form his distinctly American landscape, Morín (A Larger Country) displays a “wind-whipped, ear-clapped” poetic sensibility forged by daily experience. These affably dreamlike riffs on love, fatherhood, and loss are marked by a deadpan surrealism. Morín is persuasive when negotiating a longer epistolary piece such as “Sing Sing,” with its sweeping lyrical meditations on poetic inspiration, subjectivity, and public narrative. He’s perhaps most striking in capturing everyday actions with startling, musical wit: “I found regret in a deli case; it was white and shaped like a brick.” In a supermarket queue, he watches as “a hand/ mottled indigo like a map of archipelagoes,/ brushes my lettuce.” Learning to use chopsticks, his fingers “stumble across a tiny plate/ with my Chinese finger crutches” before becoming “Fred Astaire on stilts.” The stakes are always higher than they first appear and humor serves to sharpen his speakers’ underlying concern that “Beauty is for suckers.” At any moment the reader can be stirred by Morín’s restless imagination, whether it’s his descriptions of “ice-bitten January streets” or “the peacock-black/ of galaxies.” In such moments of delicate precision, readers experience the pleasure of watching Morín construe daily experience in an idiom distinctly and unforgettably his own. (Apr.)