Postcolonial Love Poem

By Natalie Diaz, reviewed by Stephanie Burt.

The winner of a MacArthur “Genius” award after only one prior volume, Diaz in this follow-up achieves an impressive counterpoint. One set of poems in clear, short blocks of free verse pursue the injustice and the violence that have followed her brother and Native peoples as far back as American English can go: “my brothers kiss their bullet / in a dark cul-de-sac, in front / of the corner-store ice machine.” The other set—as her title predicts—blooms into celebrations of queer amours and attachments continual, excellent, and sublime: “When I put my teeth to her wrist the world goes everywhere white.” “I want her green life. Her inside me / in a green hour I can’t stop.” In both modes, the Mojave writer speaks not just as herself but as a network of rivers, as “waterways in our bodies,” a minotaur, a congeries of animals, “tusks scraping the walls.” Night with her lover, whose “hips / they are a city. They are Kingdom,” overlap with dreams of Aztec chambers and with memories of basketball (where, in the 1990s, Diaz was a Division I star): “Only a tribal kid’s shot has an arc made of sky.” Parts of Diaz’s work seem designed for first readings, laying everything out on the surface, perhaps at times choosing clarity over depth. At other times, her call to action, to celebration, to worldly, to natural, and to erotic awareness find a verve that no one can gainsay: “All my loves / are reparations loves.... I have a gift / and it is my body.”

 


This review originally appeared in the Books Noted section of American Poets, Spring-Summer 2020