And we all have a few persistent summers clouding us into a trauma, a darkness that commands we leave our shadow “everywhere / you think the light could find it.” Oh, the summer that Elisabet Velasquez opens the door to with such deft grace, oh the eulogy that she allows nothing inside of. Throughout this suite of poems I admire not just Velasquez’s talent for writing into heat but the way the line moves with the intention to suffocate in the act of being remembered. In more ways than one this is a poetics of the mouth and similarly this a suite with more than one way to shine.
Consider this moment within Velasquez’s second poem Planning My Visit to the Psych ER, “I ask for a lap dance / from the boy with the island tongue. Puerto Rico / and all of its debt poured from his mouth / and into my wanting hands.” Pair this now with Velasquez’s declaration in her first poem I Don’t Want to Be Known For Writing About My Trauma I Write in a New Poem About My Trauma “Now I write with the roaches / that leave my mouth / whenever I turn a man on like a light” Here the mouth is as much about escape as it is about language, the speaker of these poems desiring as much to be harbor to her island’s debt as her mother wished to become a flood. Here the precision of the line break creates a kind of stuttering effect, a halting grace not dissimilar to a mouth that wetly strives to be uncovered by a familiar hand. Trauma is a gate, is a wound, is a mouth here.
And here we are as dogged by summer as we are by our own genetics, the lineage of what a bold sun and a willing mouth have made of our parents. “and she never got to be the good guy, always had to be the fire” and if the line ends there then we have an exquisitely executed poem about the lack of agency and yet turning to the next line we see that these are poems where escape is hard but not impossible, that like the healing of trauma, it asks of us seemingly impossible act of choice. Fire becomes a flood.
Let us turn once more to the mouth for in Oraciones Velasquez pens a fitting final act. “I push my into the wave until I flood, until I am glistening, a leaking god” The trajectory of water in this suite is just one of many things that fascinate me and that I imagine I will return to for many years to come. Within this world Velasquez has erected water is both the salve and temptation, both maternal and something we plead “swallow me, quickly, so that I have no time to fall in love with the inside of your mouth.” With these poems we have been gifted such a fertile landscape of ghosts, Velasquez leaves us “For you, my breath and all the men that haunt it.” And I am changed, in the way only haunting can do.