Black Blossoms

Rigoberto Gonzalez's third book of poetry explores the private lives of working-class women of color. More explicitly, the poems take on the ambitious project of complicating familiar feminine imagery such as flowers, birth, and the nude female form as subject; these tropes are juxtaposed with dark, often violent language. The first subject the reader encounters in Black Blossoms is that of the androgynous German dancer Anita Berber. Gonzalez writes

        War as Woman is what it should be called,
		This dress stretched open like a battlefield,
			this arsenal of fingertips and bullet kiss,
	this bloody bed with a skull rising through it.

Ultimately, the collection is a tribute to the many female influences in the poet's life. From Lizzie Borden, Anne Sexton, and Ai to the poet's own family and friends, the poems of Black Blossoms present, as D.A. Powell notes, "desire and mortality, history and the present, in tones alternately rapturous and threnodial."

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.