cover image Land of Fire

Land of Fire

Mario Chard. Tupelo, $16.95 trade paper (86p) ISBN 978-1-946482-09-9

Chard displays deep interest in sonics and wordplay while dissecting language in this debut of irresistible tension. The collection is divided into two large sections, bookended by a single opening and closing poem. Within, Chard weaves together images of the biblical fall from grace, modern violence, and struggles to cross borders and speak the unfamiliar. “I watched her/ when she stood in line/ with others taking turns/ reciting words to make them/ citizens,” he writes in “The Oath.” Chard urges his readers to slow down and savor the process of untangling the occasionally slippery syntax of his narratives. In the devastating poem “Caballero,” his linguistic threads suss out subtleties of meaning. For example, he writes, “Son,/ in Spanish you do not agree,/ you must be in agreement,/ estar de acuerdo.// Two people may agree or disagree,/ like we do,/ but they must also be in one/ or the other.” In “Mistake,” Chard recalls a tense moment translating for an upset father: “when he stopped/ speaking—my turn to translate his words—/ I was confused at first, simply/ started back in Spanish with what he asked./ The father laughed; the Board followed./ The room of parents broke/ into laughter.” Throughout this fine collection, Chard takes moments of vulnerability and finds within them opportunities for connection. (Mar.)