Reviewed by Dryland Staff
Ruben Quesada’s chapbook, REVELATIONS, is a collection where poems about angels, Christ, and crucified gods mix with poems about heroin, erections and dead birds; the holy and the unholy.
Poems are grouped together by titles of his translations of works by Luis Cernuda, a Spanish poet who was exiled from his home country in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War, and one of the first openly gay poets of the 20th century.
Except for the opening piece (“Angels In The Sun”), all the author’s poems are titled by way of roman numerals. Poems I through IX are all prose pieces; psalms that offer a window into a soul that has witnessed and experienced much pain and sadness.
What impacted me most from these prose poems were the endings. Some, just a few words, but each more melancholic than the last. For example, a haze of zinnias hushed in the rain, and later, body turned to ash, and, nothing more was said.
Cernudas’s poems share the themes of nature; the changing seasons; and life and death. Here, some lines from “Desire,” my favorite of the translated pieces: from the yellow poplar/ a leaf like a broken star/ spins toward the earth. And this stanza from, “Fall Feeling,” another translation, and the final poem in the chapbook:
Upon the old ruins it rains,
The autumn still green,
Odorless, dreams blossom,
And the body gives in.
Quesada carefully chose which poems to include with his own, and the four translated poems complement his own language well. For instance, compare the previous cited lines with these from poem, “X,” sunsets were plum colored lights kissing snow/ covered rooftops joy was a love letter, and this first stanza from poem, “XIV”:
Beneath sunsets like wildfire
an alchemy of traffic in orange
and red on the 405 in Los Angeles
Both poets know the importance of color to set the mood, and both are masters at describing everyday natural occurrences in nature and life that make the reader want to stay in that moment.
At only 38 pages, this chapbook is a bible tract, but not the kind handed out by Christian zealots trying to save you from the eternal flames of hell. This is a religious text for all who can feel September quietly transform from summer into autumn, and for those who believe in the beauty of words.
REVELATIONS is available for purchase at Sibling Rivalry Press