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  November 2006
Columns
volume 4 number 4
 
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Tess. Lotta
Poetry Unrestrained: William Waltz, editor of Conduit Literary Magazine and the Poetics of Annihilation
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My First Mentor
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Marie Lecrivain
Mindy Nettifee's Sleepyhead Assassins
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Marie Lecrivain
Luis Rodriguez's My Nature is Hunger
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Francisco Dominguez
Lidia Torres? A Weakness for Boleros
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Jerry Garcia
Bent Hamer's Charles Bukowski's Factotum
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Elisha Porat's Episode
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Marie Lecrivain
Naughty and Nice: Holiday Literary Recommendations
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Wisteria: A Journal of Haiku, Senryu, and Tanka
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G. Murray Thomas
1967: ?Snoopy vs. The Red Baron? (part 1)
 
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Francisco Dominguez November 2006
   

 

Lidia Torres? A Weakness for Boleros

Bio: Lidia Torres, a Puerto Rican poet, was born in New York City. A graduate of Hunter College and New York University, she received a poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She lives in New York City, where she is currently working on a translation project.

Puerto Rican poet Lidia Torres’ latest offering, A Weakness for Boleros, is an enchanting fusion of music, food, family, death, and its aftermath, emotion-mourning. As the title of the book implies, music is the biggest catalyst in each piece. This catalyst in turn induces the author to reminisce about family, aging, and death. Her message throughout the collection, however, is singular. It is stated, implicitly − the lives we live ought to be lived in equal passion to that which she believes resides in the music of boleros.
Such passion is apparent in her description of food, oftentimes present during hard times. A certain food scent triggers a cherished family memory. It is in this triggering process that Torres transforms food into emotion, and vice versa. Whether it is the flavor of fruit that conjures serenity, or her Puerto Rican native desserts laying claim to childhood jubilation, each food focus is intermixed with an emotion.
    One could be excused in believing the work is a collection of bleak introspection about death, as the first few pieces are about just that − dying, mourning, or missing a dear relative. Take this piece, “Three Keys,” which is quite representative of such reason for misinterpretation:

    I inherit three skeleton keys,
    A thick metal ring
    Tied in a bow at the end.

    These keys cannot lock
    The bare rooms with quiet
    Ghosts of three brothers.

    I call them at night,
    The rusted metal ringing
    In my pocket. My brother answers, tapping

    The conga skin with the tips of his fingers,
    Lightly, not to wake my sister
    In the room next door dreaming

    Of my father. In her dreams,
    He is counting beds, readying rooms.
    Another brother taps the clave’s beat.

    The last brother answers by barely scraping
    A guiro. Then we are all
    In the same dream, alive and dead.

    There is the palm tree you wanted.
    The mangos are so low,
    They graze your fingers

    When you try to reach them.
    Limes among roses, orchids.
    Even the roots bear fruit

    In our garden. The scent
    Of guavas. The tapping
    And scraping of the trio.


    Torres’ prose delivery is heavy on imagery, strengthening the effect of her recollections and experiences. It is through this imagery that she uses the passion of music to describe a mourning that is a mesmerizing experience rather than a sad hardship, although it is implied that even going through such experiences is indeed evidence of deep longing for departed loved ones.
    While sometimes the imagery throughout A Weakness for Boleros does become repetitive and the subject matter does become somewhat monotonous in its approach, almost falling prey to its own strengths, one can’t help but realize Boleros is a deeper emotional exploration than it appears. It is, in fact, an attempt to reach a balanced view of death, and Torres does indeed find her unique vision of what death means to her and how she copes with it, as exemplified in her poem, “Respite”:

    My mother is tapping her thigh.
    She is looking beyond the dangling

    Wires, the death rattle nearby.
    The other patients shout

    At the vague inclemency
    That inhabits hospital rooms

    And the staff forgets.
    How they forget

    The touch of a clean sheet
    And the flesh that receives it,

    The comfort of a hot meal
    Filling all the body’s vacancies.

    Propped in bed, my mother concentrates
    On the sound of the small

    Battery-powered radio.
    We are nodding to a bolero,

    Swoon together for all
    The time I clung

    To an old plastic radio,
    Became friendly with the dials

    That made my captive youth bearable,
    For all the time we were strangers.

    Now joined in this attraction
    To the familiar plea in the song.


(A Weakness for Boleros: Poems by Lidia Torres. Mayapple Press, Bay City, Michigan. 2005. $12.50. ISBN-0-932412-34-3)

copyright 2006 Francisco Dominguez

   


Francisco Dominguez


author's bio

    Francisco J. Dominguez emigrated from Mexico to the United States at the age of 13. Since then, he has written and published a book of poetry, Estranged by the Airfields of Vienna. Fran's creative work is mostly comprised of short prose and free verse. As an immigrant, his endeavors are based on an outside-looking-in perspective. Fran is the art editor for poeticdiversity, and has been writing poetry for more than 10 years. He lives in Long Beach, California.

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