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Friday, February 14, 2020

XXX Poems By Raquel Balboni


XXX Poems
By Raquel Balboni
Arts & Letters
artandlettersmagazine.squarespace.com
Cambridge, MA
47 Pages
$15.00

Review by Dennis Daly

Raquel Balboni butters her readers with luscious phrases and salted cream stanzas in her first book entitled XXX Poems. She churns her verses with naked abandon in an avant-garde display of unabashed kisses ingrained with unabashed cravings.

In her poem Girl in the Picture Balboni meditates on the smallness or largeness of things. A blue landscape forwards into a sweetness of bright and sunny days. But, inside, weather refugees fog up windows and mark a certain heart sickness as the world’s evolution inexorably continues, offering ancient songs to those avoiding the snow. The movement through the piece turns upbeat and centers on the power of the pictured girl. With a spreadable touch Balboni leads her readers into the largeness of her tableau this way,

A guideline in the blue landscape
feels like a small room that feels giant because everything is
            blue.
There is no distinguisher of the shapes or walls of the room. The
            blue dominates.
Leopards move outside in the dust hills
away from the means to be certain direction of translation when
the stars the moon and the sun are certain
             of other things.

Funny Place, Balboni’s poem of winking admonishments, leads its reader into a definable destination before assailing him or her with the sharp edges of extraneous, even alien images. Once set into the piece, the sharp edges become part of an overriding two-dimensional poetic cubism with its own logic. A stone altar, borrowed from nature, centers other religious implications in this strange, angularly sensual, funhouse. Consider these lines,

Over a table of stone from the edge of the forest where the
            vines made you bleed
A stone from there cast upon a four legged standing statue
So sturdy as the mirror made to look us 100 years older and
             suddenly with a lot of miracles to be held
Never try again to photograph the four unlit candles on the
             mantle in the funhouse mirror
Did I mention this strange bed in a room of blue almost furry
             Blue…

Beware the unsatisfied preying mantis. Or pity her in her sleeplessness and attempts to connect, not by preying, but by praying. Balboni’s poem Praying Angel Insomnia kisses and tells. Initial sexual innuendos take flight as mystical and transcendent flame, a white light of longing. Her persona flees the indifferent world. She craves connections from ritual magic, the angelic type (I think).  Here the poet’s persona contemplates abandonment,

Angel in a field oh my darlin
a black and white ghostly film grain
oh my darling, coffee cup
full of ice and dark like sleeplessness
on a bus for far too long
walking in the city with long hair
the sky is predicted to come out tomorrow
to sing a weeping lullaby
my skin feels like it is moving
as i crawl out from my own throat
i can see the otherside of trust
when i stand on the tip of my big tooth

Accept, a poem of self-recognition and indulgence, drizzles onto the page in distinct moments. In this geometric world that Balboni creates alertness is everything. The poet’s protagonist flourishes by mingling with timelessness and the tolerance of night. She ignores limits. In the end the intimate details coalesce,  

The night is pleasant and inside a blend of time limits
A grey braid and a purple coat, trying hard not to notice the
             differences  
Because the pot of honey is translucent anyway, the sun shows
              behind the slow drip
Staying here with her much longer and coming home to long
                fingers 
staying here until everything matches

Obsession sneaks into the lover like an unwritten poem. It expands, takes odd turns and seeks to control a universe of desire. Balboni’s piece entitled She details such a compulsion. Mystery and secrecy conspire against the determined lover, creating delusions along the way. The narrator consumes bits of knowledge about the object of her affection hungrily: where she goes, what she wears, the books she reads. In the end sagacity prevails. The poet’s persona finds a certain serenity but bemoans the inescapable,

all I wanted was to see her up close
to see the way her arms blended with her neck
the sweet creamy skin, the smooth organ so there and soft
although it seemed my eyes played tricks on me when i looked
            at all

never will i be allowed to follow her into the secret woods
like a magic trick you ask how but never want to know
the mess in realizing nothing is as special as it may seem
in the blissful dank smell of moving soil
peace is left to be

How can you quibble with midnight coffee? Balboni clearly delights in coffee (in this as well as other poems), among other bedside pleasures. Her poem City and Awake mesmerizes with a slow delineation of image and passion beginning with her black coffee, through her meditations on cutlery and monkeys, and finally love. The poem opens thusly,

with midnight coffee by my bedside
i got invited to a poetry party that i did not go to
poetry in my fade parade
operating this body this tool this wave
on the morning bedside:
green juice, black coffee
in a monkey mug & in the constellations mug
prove it worthy a restless time to consider the cleanest cup

Don’t underestimate restlessness in a poet. And especially don’t underestimate Raquel Balboni and her “wakey wakey,” caffeine-powered, poetic kisses. They are top drawer.

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