cover image My Body Is Paper

My Body Is Paper

Gil Cuadros. City Lights, $17.95 trade paper (164p) ISBN 978-0-87286-909-7

This blazing collection of unpublished stories and poems by Cuadros (1962–1996; City of God) portrays queer Chicano beauty and resilience during the AIDS epidemic. Themes of mortality, sin, and spirituality recur throughout. In “Hands,” the narrator attempts suicide at 12, then learns from the archbishop of East Los Angeles that he “could never go to heaven if I killed myself.” The narrator of “Heroes” feels a mix of inspiration and shame when he reads his friend Ron’s “perverted” short stories about his religious upbringing. At home that night, the narrator burns sage, plays a CD of Tibetan monks chanting, and has sex with his lover (“His fluid lies over my tongue, salty and full of potential life”). The poem “Recovery” blends candid details of incontinence, nausea, and other symptoms Cuadros experienced from AIDS with tender descriptions of his partner’s caretaking (“Tears break from his eyes; my heart is decimated. I am spent”). In “Birth,” a vivid example of queer futurity, a man is pregnant with his partner Marcus’s baby. When Marcus caresses the bump on the narrator’s abdomen, passersby “turn in disgust as if to deny my existence and my child’s potential.” This is a welcome tribute to a writer who was cut short in his prime. (June)