When I Said Goodbye
By: Didi Menendez, Blaze-VOX (books) 67 pgs.
A Review by Mary F. Morris
These poems are like being at the kitchen table of your best friend, a great poet, who is telling you everything exactly as it is. Arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) simmering, as you listen to the well crafted worlds unfolding with an intimacy uncensored. You will want to come back. Again and again. One immediately trusts this voice and all its personal and public no-nonsense, sensory-stimulating verbal track.
Take the surprising The Night Before The Divorce
She gave him a tit fuck./ An ass fuck./ A mouth fuck…/Surprise that she was giving him everything./When she had told him before No./ No that it would hurt/…And she said yes, yes, yes, yes,/ her head went sideways,/as if she were really saying no, no, no.
There is a terribleness and a tenderness in many of these poems. They are raw, in your face, and exist like none other this reviewer has read. The pacing with the poems is remarkable. In A Flan Is A Man About To Come, the poet gives us the recipe for both: kitchen talk and sexuality.
But the book doesn't stop there. It engages artistic knowledge with the likes of Dylan Thomas, Reb Livingston, Lorca, Robert Creeley and others.
Menendez has a great way of imaging by lists, like instructions or recipes for the living and dying in a metaphorical bridge building us to the final piece/prize. For prize is what we end up with, a gift of this author's magic. Take Little Deaths
My son once made a negative remark about gay men./ I corrected him and told him love is hard to find and when you find it,/embrace it./ What do you teach your children?
I get my music from the radio.
I get my birds flying through my window.
I get my poems as a Toyota cuts in front of me.
I get my little deaths riding down the Turnpike.
I get my love thrown in front of the backdoor.
In the section Little Havana, I am struck with a long piece, a prose poem, which is amazingly, one sentence. The structure assists here as it flows and flows and we ride with it. Fabulous pacing, no hesitation. Herein exhibits another of Didi's gifts. The beautifully interspersed Spanish language, that voice we hear, from a mixture of the Americas, a story of her abuela (grandmother) and two braids inside a little golden box, about puberty. Yet she keeps us there, in place, grounded. /little relics that belonged to her only daughter such as a statue of St. Mary whose cloak was the color of the Miami sky.
Another striking example of a list of events, building the poem, is "Ni Te Cases, Ni Te Embarques." Translation: Don't get Married, nor get stuck (stood up).
Tia Nena is at the kitchen table
Her wrists have scar tissue
my mother is throwing the tarot cards
My father is smoking a cigar watching
La Lucha Libre
You are in Vietnam
I am 12 years old
Viva the tenderness, the imagery and imagination. Viva the gorgeous goddess world of this poet who hypnotizes us with this work.
Mary Morris is the winner of the Rita Dove Award and has published in Quarterly West, Indiana Review and Nimrod. She has taught and judged poetry and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.