Today's book of poetry: I Don't Know Do You. Roberto Montes. Ampersand Books. Gulfport, Florida. 2014.
"Sadness is capable of great acts of beauty". Sometimes, all it takes is a line. I read this line, I was hooked. But there is no certainty here. Everything Roberto Montes says is a question of one type or another. His answers are questions as often as not. His statements are questions.
We've all been in a room where there's a really smart guy/gal riffing brilliant, regardless of what they are talking about you find yourself attracted to their orbit. Welcome to I Don't Know Do You.
Love Poem for Secret Weather
Do you really want me
to tell you about that night
on the mountain? How we slept
right through the snow?
Melted right to the placid jaw
of the earth? How it felt
in the mountain's cheek?
Two pebbles burning underneath
the riverbed? How the river
was boiling because of us,
because of our opinions
of the sky? What keeps it
way up there? And why
hasn't anyone done anything
about it? How even in sleep
I saw you settling toward me?
Light a weight directing us
from inside our trunks?
These poems are not surrealist, although you might get that impression, they are hyper-real. They have the feeling of authentic moments, those myriad disconnected and disjointed seconds that make up the reality of time.
I have decided to give up
everything and take up ending
matches in the sink.
They will discover
my head in the marshes.
They will discover
they do not like my voice
until it is inside them.
Yes, I am taken. Yes, I am a grocery
filled with bees. Pollinating
what you think of March.
Pollinating the empty basket.
I have the confidence of a child
fainting as he climbs the fence.
Therefore I am attractive
to the earth. Consider this
when you rub dirt in my ears and hair.
When you let me know
you've never been in love.
Bullshit. Everyone's been in love.
then I fall violently in love
and have to make out
with everything, even my tormentors.
The laundromats. The cul-de-sac
circling my sternum. The way we wet
snuffs the cellar of an afternoon.
No, I don't have a job.
No, I don't have a reason
to walk through the development.
But anyway I walk. I want to mean
beyond myself. I want
to seed the fearful gladiola.
Because anyone who is unafraid
will never understand
how warm a vowel can be
as you hang four-fingered off
the roof. How I am called
noiselessly down. How I pitch
Earl Grey into the streets.
Montes can sound lyrical, romantic, Kurt Vonnegutish, splendid, mad, magical and mystifying — all in short order.
In some respects these poems read like a popular amusement park ride. You never know quite which direction these poems are about to throw you, but you've paid for the experience and are certain to enjoy the ride.
Why We Should Get Married
November stumbles out of my mouth
and into yours. You take my heart's wet mop
and dance with it. You participate
in a field of starlings. You have many talents!
You use them all against me. You stay
up all night planning my downfall.
From what? this pitcher of azaleas?
I'm best friends with azaleas. Joke's on you.
The joke is a fat Chinese lantern
lighting up your sternum.
Soon our chests are buzzing
the whole time at the supermarket.
Soon every last petal is carbonating
underneath our tongues. My startled scalp
occurs to you. It is perfect for holding
things aloft. You are sleepless
all over the brunt of it. You build a lake house
on top of it. We invite the outside in.
We shake hands with all our neighbors.
We are polite and not on fire and so
are forgotten by everyone.
We don't know what to do about this.
We find a creek and we tiptoe
strangely into it. We swallow water
and bite glistening salmon chunks of air.
We follow each other all the way home.
I surprise you with a poppy field
in bed. You surprise me by waking up
on fire. For the rest of our lives
we put toasted poppy seeds on
each other's tongues. It feels
like I am rolling down a secret hill.
I am happy. The sky stands up.
I can't pretend to understand all that is going on in these poems and the examples I've chosen don't necessarily best illustrate the full range that Montes lays out here. Montes range of interests and alacrity will offer all the intrigue and challenge a reader needs. But there is nothing wrong with a challenge. These highly entertaining poems offer as many questions as they solve, nothing wrong with that either.
Both playful and deadly serious, Roberto Montes stakes a serious claim.