cover image Does House Have Lions

Does House Have Lions

Sonia Sanchez. Beacon Press (MA), $16 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-6830-4

Rich in kin and kindred spirits, this panegyrical collection displays Sanchez's gift for crafting public poetry out of social issues and familial relationships. Straightforwardly, Sanchez (Wounded in the House of a Friend) documents her brother's death from AIDS, and the family's estrangement and reconciliation. Calculated tensions are expertly enhanced in rhyme royal stanzas where words and linebreaks virtually tumble across the page. The energy generated by this formal compression mirrors her brother's struggle against the confines of society: ""and the days rummaging his eyes/ and the nights flickering through a slit/ of narrow bars. hips. thighs./ and his thoughts labeling him misfit/ as he prowled, pranced in the starlit/ city...."" As the sequence of poems progresses, ancestral voices are introduced and the composition gives way to African words and rhythms: ""i come, doctor./ mangi nyo captor."" The stanzas compress and collapse as the brother's health deteriorates, ending in forceful dialogues between, for example, ""brother"" and ""ancestor, female."" Sanchez successfully evokes her brother's journey toward self-realization: ""come here African/ come here African/ i am coming/ i am coming."" In the volume's four sections, Sanchez moves from her brother's youth in the South, to his life in New York, and to his eventual death. Building in drama and preacherly cadences, this work is fluid, controlled and dexterously paced. (Apr.)