What the Werewolf Told Them

Chely Lima, trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Randall. The Operating System, $22 trade paper (238p) ISBN 978-1-946031-04-4
In this innovative collection, Cuba-born transgender writer Lima reflects on gender, bodies, gods, monstrosities, and seeking peace amid splintered psyches. Lima’s speakers are many-gendered (perhaps post-gender), pansexual, sometimes trans-species, and even alien life forms who defy the laws of space and time to drive their own bodies in the trunks of their cars or walk hand-in-hand with themselves. They include pilgrims, orphans, nomads, and hunters who encounter mythological beings, both storied and imagined, including the Incan deity Wiracocha, adolescent elves, and a “grandmother-bear.” Gender anxiety permeates the collection. “I am an invisible man,” Lima writes, “camouflaging the straight lines of my life.” And supernatural beings feel like kindred spirits: “I can understand the vampire’s anguish/ at not seeing himself reflected in mirrors.” This is no identity crisis, however, as Lima’s speakers embrace their fluidity. In the tender elegy “because it is stronger,” Lima captures ecstasy, loss, and transcendence, poignantly describing his beloved as “beautiful like a mouthful of bread/ in the hand of someone starving.” Lima’s celebratory and cathartic poetics will be embraced by fellow outsiders, the nonconforming of every ilk, all of the “imperfect humans,/ oppressed, trapped in rigid geometry,/ just trying to overcome, to survive.” (May)
Reviewed on: 08/07/2017
Release date: 05/01/2017
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