Puerto Rico by Alejandro Ventura

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Puerto Rico
by Alejandro Ventura

Pub Date: November 1, 2012
58 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-936767-15-1

photo by Jalene Gelana

 

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Alejandro Ventura’s poems are full of intriguing combinations and surprising turns: a world of mangú-making, the paintings of Barnett Newman, baseball, Keats, the smell of grandmothers in an open pharmacy. A magician’s hat of endless possibilities. The poems display a poet of capacious imagination, poised and skilled in his use of language, with an inviting playfulness, and an earned tenderness that touches the heart. It’s magical realism meets Ashbery, but the result is his very own original voice. Alejandro Ventura takes us to an island that becomes our own as we read the poems in Puerto Rico.

Julia Alvarez, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

An impressive debut. Revealing it’s author’s keen, adroit sense of craft, delicacy of touch and tone, admirable candor, metaphorical inventiveness, and striking lyrical imagination, Alejandro Ventura’s Puerto Rico adds new nuance and inflection to the already rich harmonies and variously textured chorus of Puerto Rican and Diaspora Latino poets. Its vigorous blend of cerebral cool, sophisticated polish, and “no more cynicism than was necessary” introduces readers to an arresting realm, “a dream country…bound to the horizon.”

Roberto Marquez, editor of Puerto Rican Poetry: An Anthology from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times

 

Review from decomP.

Alejandro Ventura was born in Arecibo to Dominican parents. He was raised by his mom, Nora, his Puerto Rican stepdad, Samuel, and his two older brothers, Jaime and Eduardo, in the suburbs of New Jersey. He grew up reading comics and playing video games, dreaming of girls and a world commensurate with the promises of literature. Alejandro is currently participating in DIY revitalizing efforts in the DC and Baltimore literary and art scenes.

 

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Beginnings

There was nothing to say in my defense.
I don’t understand the winter.
Blindly, I felt for things that made life bearable.
They lay hidden in a mire of doubtful authenticity.
The land is fallow here. The animals can sense your guilt.
The only decent way to die is in your lover’s arms,
but I’ll settle for the clear line of sight
of a witty observation or two.
An oath is sworn, perilously close to intimacy.

Easter

The question is, at what cost?
Take the inevitability of certain objects:
even a gun thrown to the bottom of the sea
is liable to go off, at some point.
All you have to do is find the right genre,
which is French for gender.
Already we’re on to something.
Do you see what I mean
when I say that outdoor arrivals are to be preferred
as a matter of principle, about fuel and heat and tarmac,
salt and the ocean, fathers and sons?
The only thing you know at death is disbelief.

Church

For all of our robes and colored glass,
what we’re after is the stupid muttering of a doxology.
Language keeps one free as a fence.
Someone dies so that we may have a reunion with tea cookies.
Robins rest overnight in the eaves of the carport after a storm,
and sails catch an offshore wind.
What angels spend their hours deliberating over china,
or can be bothered to keep their weekly appointments?
Let us listen and clap hands to a Negro spiritual,
for ours is the kingdom. And the power.

Things I Know to Be True

Flan comes from a double boiler
and good meat is slightly burned.
Servants are black.
Women are fragile, or sterile.
Men are abominations.
The land is not your succor.
It is difficult to conceive of travel.
People die when their belongings give way.
Mothers have long hair and go barefoot.
Poor people, like cockroaches, are invisible.
To see if yours was a happy childhood, tie your shoes.
42nd Street runs cross-town.
Language is half armature, and half something else.
If you’re going to love someone, do it in the open.

Facts

Some rain will make the beach its own horizon,
if the lighting is right, suggesting nowhere but ground.
Unfortunately for us the shore hems a space, this country,
like some other half-hearted effort,
a game in which there is no chance of winning.
What would more time bring?
The fisherman loses sight of land for practical reasons
as we trust a rock tossed around the infield to guide us home.
A submariner nightmares his ship a coffin but looks for dolphins
at the surface, avoiding facts.
And Thoreau asked if we had discovered and settled the shores.