The internet is real. On Jan. 27th while toner was being heated onto paper, I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I make copies while depressed, or weirdly hyper, 40 hrs a week, and read things online because my job doesn’t require the use of my brain. Ana C. posted a status update that she would mail her chapbook to anyone who emailed her their address. I did this. I don’t know Ana C. IRL (in real life). She runs a poetry website and publishes poetry online. I follow her on tumblr. Her poetry speaks to common human experience while providing it with a humorous-almost surreal, sad, and innocently sexual voice that makes the reader take an unexpected turn while reading. Last night (Feb. 7th) I received her chapbook “make-believe love-making” in the mail. It was real and in my hand. A cardstock cover and 7 letter-size pages, printed double-sided, folded in half and bound with yarn. She wrote “hi Brian” in pen and it was marked, in pen, copy 14/60 on the last page. This was the second edition. I hardly know her, and she had sent me this exquisite and limited set of poems. I read it 3 times in a row, once my girlfriend Sarah had given it back.
These 21 poems work separately and together to tell the tale of a real romance and broken heart, or an imaginary one.
The 1st poem “make-believe love-making” regards a picture of a love interest intentionally stained with ink ”because i only want to do it / under a black spot of ink.” Suggesting that “i only want to do it” in the narrator’s imagination, at least now, and that the love interest is perceived in mysterious, dark and distorted way. Speaking clearly to romances and when people say things like, “I thought you were different” when the illusion of their desire is realized as something less than they imagined. And the safety of fantasizing/purging through poetry feelings about a potential love interest, or ex-love interest.
The poems lead into the romance. The “you” in each poem seems directed toward the potential, or ex, love interest.
“water goggles in church” has comical-surreal imagery that intimates the “you” a God-like status and the overwhelming effect ”you” has on the narrator.
“our hands smell like balloons” suggests having sex with condoms and being in a bedroom, or fantasizing about having sex, making little inside jokes that potential lover, or lovers do make. Her last 3 lines: “i also move my hands / i put them in your pockets / and try to figure things out” Suggests the beginning of a relationship, discovering a lover’s sexual-vibe and how it interacts with yours.
“take your seat belt off” reminded me of The Smith’s song “There is a light that never goes out” more so because I used to listen to the song incessantly when I lived in San Diego, and Ana C. lives near, or in San Diego. The poem shows the narrator taking a risk, and asking “you” to take a risk and to recognize the narrator’s risk: “and i just felt really scared / because my seatbelt is off / / remember i took it off / just for you.” This could also be a metaphor for having unprotected sex, often a move towards a more intimate, long-term relationship.
The next poem, “an airbag” compliments the previous. 20 words including the title (most of her work is minimalist but says so much) shows the “you grow big / and my face feels inferior // i should feel safe / here / instead I just feel defective.” The cute use of “defective” in relation to an actual airbag in cars, and the inferior feeling when you have strong feelings for a person who may only have mediocre feeling towards you. Or the way sought after lovers have their ego inflated when they are the object of unrequited love.
“about water-beds” is one of my favorite of the chapbook. There is a child-like innocents, joy and openness to the world, but also the frankness of a woman: “when we were little my cousin had a water-bed / i’m still small / but old enough to want to fuck you / on one of those.” She goes on to write about role-playing little mermaid as a 5-year-old, and how “mermaids get none.” The last stanza is magic: “legs and ass wrapped / tight. beside you i feel / like a mermaid again / trapped in denim / also known as / skinny jeans.” The “you” of the chapbook makes the narrator feel like the Little Mermaid, magical but also chaste.
“abcdeFML” seems to begin the ending of the illusion of obtaining the narrator’s attachment to the “you” of the book. A somewhat unconscious, yet recognized knowledge this love will never go anywhere. Her stomach growls when “…you kiss me.” Maybe suggesting wanting more. “so i concentrate on the good things / like the actual kiss / or the doughnuts we’ll eat later.” This is actively denying the unconscious knowledge that the love will go nowhere. And the last stanza: “sometimes i think about freeing / eighteen year old brides” speaks to the narrator’s independence and ideals against this crush that is irrational and physical instead of intellectual and abstract.
“lots of exclamation points” seems to be about masturbation, and possibly a correlation on art to the act of masturbation. This poem further plays with the reality and unreality of the romance of the chapbook. With images like nude on the ceiling, tits because the nude is headless, and a toilet–seems to connect to great art like the Sistine Chapel, the sculptures of antiquity, and Duchamp’s toilet.
“hung: the vulgar slang definition” is a funny poem about a long distance phone call or email about a 2678.64 mile long penis. Ana is Hispanic and the word “vulgar” is often used by Spanish speakers because in Spanish certain sayings, or ways of sayings things, are “very vulgar” as my girlfriend would say. Being vulgar in speech is looked down upon by Hispanic cultures, sometimes, because it means you are of a lower class.
“running out of semen” This poem made me laugh hard, especially the first 2 stanzas about writing a poem on a cat with magic marker and then licking it off. The last two stanzas are directed towards the “you” of the chapbook: “i’ll let you write one on my stomach / with your semen // sex is only sexist / when you say stupid things.” These lines and the title “running out of semen” suggest that the “you” is no longer in the narrator’s life as much and her illusion of “you” and her potential happiness has also changed.
“literally, burned cream” is a poem about going on a nice expensive dinner that often are significant in blossoming romances. The narrator mocks eating crème brulee, but also relishes in it. Her head spinning, her face blushing, and the “stains” and asking if she tasted like “burnt cream” suggesting semen and romance and burnt romance.
“fuck you three dimensionally” is a poem about fucking “…you / in my mind” and wanting to three dimensionally. The narrator ends the poem with “but i am open / / to untitled sex positions” suggesting an undefined sexual relationship, which works well with the next poem.
“big chunks of tomato.” is a poem about how “you” make shitty pasta and like a different girl better than the narrator. Seems the chunks of tomato getting bigger (when the narrator hates big chunks of tomato) suggests an indifference, disregard, and, maybe, an intentional action by “you” toward the narrator. This feels that the romance has had an up, down, both undefined, distance and possible reunion as “we’re friends” that may, possibly, have sex after dinner.
“cute taxi driver” is a 33-word poem including title. Apparently the “you” had left the narrator while out drinking. The narrator took a cab home with a cute taxi driver that flirted with her. Each line is so effective, 2nd stanza: “i vomited on the sidewalk / i texted goodbye / but save it as a draft.” The romance/friendship is irreversibly fucked at this point.
“not your clone” is a poem about seeing a clone of “you” at the grocery store. The tones of the poems start to turn sad and bitter from this point. The narrator gives a nice twist to the classic after-breakup-thinking-you-see-your-ex-but-didn’t-predicament: “and i felt a bit sad but relieved / because i never want to say hi again / because i’m probably going to // blush.”
“i hate you saliva” is a poem about why “you probably left me.” It’s 26-words. I like it. The romance is over now.
The next 3 poems are of the depressed/mourning period of lost love. “my pillow naked” is about the narrator napping on a “naked” pillow and a “saliva lagoon.” “sometimes i feel insignificant (but maybe i’m just too short)” is a funny poem: “i bought extra small pajama shorts / and they’re still too big for me.” And “your sister is crying because her boyfriend dumped her” is a poem about the narrator on the toilet talking to her little brother (I assume). I’m a little brother and have an older sister, it seemed comforting in a way, the idea of family. The first line is, “he wasn’t my boyfriend”; further proof of an undefined relationship.
“dolls don’t have pussies” is the climax of the book. Both surreal and real the imagery left me feeling raw and challenged. It starts, “i’m in the middle of a very dark alley again.” There is “…this fake barbie doll”, which is it’s “…barbie-ish / but it’s not the original brand” possibly speaking to her as a Hispanic trying to live up to “white” or mainstream cultures beauty ideals. She identifies with the “fake barbie” and plays with it sexually: “and i’m licking her plastic tits / but no one is moaning.” She writes, “dolls don’t have pussies / so don’t you ever / call me doll again.” The poem is angry about her perceived objectification as a sexual object only, and the strange ideals that women must face in regards to their beauty and sexuality. The title of the poem “dolls don’t have pussies” speaks for itself. And it’s an interesting contradiction/conflict in life that women must face. From a man’s point-of-view, it seems, women being sexual creatures, desire sex, companionship, and attachment of various levels, and, sometimes, the casual thing too, but must fear men want sex and nothing more. Because even a casual relationship is still a relationship. Yet if a women wants sex, she can get any asshole to sleep with her, which to the eternal adolescent boy in a man’s head sounds good, but in reality would lead to insecurity and questioning a lover’s commitment and motivation for being with them.
“i try to erase the trash with filthy words” is the last poem of the book. The 1st stanza is almost a reflection of the creation of the collection, “i scream obscenities / to no one in particular.” The narrator bitterly concludes the entire romance: “and here is one idea: // he just wanted to fuck her // and here is another one: // she still cares.” She starts the poem in the 1st person perspective, like the rest of the book, and then switches to the 3rd person when she introduces the “ideas” of the poem. This switch in perspective give an aesthetic and emotional distance. The last line of the book is, “when she’s alone” seeming to complete the circle, leaving the narrator alone and intimating bitterly that the sex was indeed “make-believe love-making.”
The series of poems arcs a romance, never fully defined. They take the reader through the stages, events and emotions with simple images, and common human experience that takes a left-turn at each new stanza. Each poem works by itself, but in the whole, the 21 poems tell a complex story, and each poem strengthens the others. It was quite a delight to find in the mail on a Monday night.