From the Bones Out

By Marisa de los Santos
(University of South Carolina Press, Paperback, 9781570033230, 79pp.)

Publication Date: April 1999

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"My lover tells me I am like this place./I tell him what I miss: the slap of leaves/on skin and air that's like a damp embrace". The poems of this debut have a Cinderella-like innocence, transforming ugliness into beauty and waving the wand of well-crafted metaphor over all they encounter. The horrific suicide of a grandfather, a mother's cancer, the mourning for a stillborn child, the potential foreclosure of a neighbor's farm are all recounted with a refined clarity. Yet through it all, de los Santos manages to frame life's traumas with a voice that can seem borrowed from the Stage Manager in Our Town: "Some years/were fair, but most were bad./The taxes, worse than weevil, tried/to take each dime she had". However, there are also poems, such as "Io's Gift", that evoke, through their subtlety and sensuality, the pleasures of the ever-changing consciousness of the female body: "I learned myself, bit/ by bit, or maybe I/ should say I dawned/ upon myself, a slow dawning". There are also glamorous poems, including "Supermodel", and "Perfect Dress", in which the poet indulges in herself as an object of perfect beauty: "Someone will murmur, /'She is sublime, '/will be precisely right, and I will step, /with incandescent shoulders, / into my perfect evening". In its worked simplicity, this is a first book that offers a formula of hope and clarity when confronting life's trials and tribulations.
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