cover image The Life Assignment

The Life Assignment

Ricardo Alberto Maldonado. Four Way, $16.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-945588-54-9

In this quietly furious bilingual debut, Maldonado challenges the entanglements of power, queer love, money, and language against the backdrop of a post-hurricane Puerto Rico and a life of daily labor in New York City. The speaker grieves his separation from the body and community at the hands of an exhausting and enduring capitalism, and the terrifying numbness of work. “The capacity for words is debt,” he writes, “its history is arrogance,/ a fundamental economy in dark.” No reality is exempt from the violence of money. “Maybe the fish of the soul redeem us from our workdays,” he ponders in one poem, and in another, “wisdom made interesting sorrow of my inbox.” The poet refuses to concede to hierarchies of language: many poems appear in both English and Spanish, flowing into one another on the page. Here are powerfully imagined futures, where devastated cities are reillumined, the body is called back to itself, and people are emboldened by their collective melancholy. In these relentless rejections of empire, Maldonado reminds humanity of its inherent worth: “I loved. I loved,” he writes, “I love presently.” (Sept.)