cover image Ruin


Cynthia Cruz, . . Alice James, $14.95 (46pp) ISBN 978-1-882295-58-6

The 35-poem sequence composing Cruz's chillingly powerful debut traces the coming-of-age of a girl whose family is haunted by the death of a brother, perhaps by his own hand. In language that is pleadingly clear but also, in the long wake of a shameful family secret, necessarily withholding ("Like a girl, he was always/ Trading what little he owned/ Of his life"), Cruz seeks terms with which to mourn and regain what she has lost. Two sections titled "In the Kingdom" recount a childhood as idyllic and magical ("Discover a hidden winter trapped in a snuffbox") as it is violent and dangerous ("Let's find something still alive/ Left to kill"). The remaining two sections, both called "Praying," drift into the murkier territory of the unconscious, where, shifting between family members' voices, Cruz's poems face the ghosts of the past: "I washed my silver handgun as I set/ The last dangerous dream afloat." If reconciliation comes, it does so only in the form of beauty and determination: "Set me in the field and let the stars/ have their way." Cruz is a new poet to watch. (Sept.)