cover image Bicycle in a Ransacked City: An Elegy

Bicycle in a Ransacked City: An Elegy

Andrés Cerpa. Alice James, $15.95 (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-97-8

With fierce despair and wisdom hard won through pain, Alice James Award–winner Cerpa’s debut collection emphasizes that “nothing lasts, not even sorrow.” The speaker of these poems is split between pursuing his own life and caring for his father, who is suicidal and ailing from Parkinson’s: “his mind: the same sentences like a vinyl’s skip the way they widened, trailed & returned.” Yet these experiences have sharpened Cerpa’s stunning, dark observations and sparked chilling lines (“My youth, I hold it, like a stovetop holds a blue flame, or how a child holds a revolver: guilty, thrilled in a black corner of the attic”). The poems are cast in sprawling one- and two-line stanzas, and though they cover heavy subject matter, they often appear airy and open on the page. Multiple poems with the same title, “Notebook: the Kairos in Chronos,” spring up throughout the collection. This play with the two Greek words, kairos, delineating an auspicious moment, and chronos, meaning time, highlight the brief bright moments that punctuate constant struggle. For Cerpa, “we’re dying but dying slow & that’s life.” Near the end of the collection, Cerpa dramatizes a morning visit to the Guggenheim with his father, “entering rooms as he begins to slow & fog,” which was also an opportunity to “hold his shoulder, consciously trying to touch, reaffirm, & comfort.” [em](Jan.) [/em]