Book Review: Fractures, by Carlos Andrés Gómez
Review by Rebecca Beardsall
University of Wisconsin Press, 2020
It is clear to see why Fractures was the Winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, selected by Natasha Trethewey. It is emotional and raw in its delivery of profoundly looking into the past while keeping the reader rooted in the present’s social struggles.
Carols Andrés Gómez’s debut full-length poetry collection Fractures reminds us of the complexity of familial relationships and the emotional roller coaster of what it means to be human in a world full of hate and love. The juxtaposition of those two emotions haunts each page.
Gómez masterfully sets the stage for the journey the reader is about to take in the first line of the sentence of the first poem, “Hijito.” Fractures is an expedition into the physical body, into the mirror, into the “overlaid” experience of other. The reader is given the map and must prepare for the road ahead:
I am enthralled by the image
in front of me: my face overlaid
with his – a boy, almost a man, inside
the glass of a grocery store
reaching for a branch
of seedless grapes.
This sly mirror. This taut mirage. (3)
Throughout, Gómez returns to the body as a space to see multiples. In “Pronounced,” the reader sees heritage reflected back, “when your father’s profile invades / your clenched jawline, you borrow his brisk gait, / his snort, his face” (22). The re-journey back in time is not only a discovery process but a relearning of what is lost. In “Native Tongue,” Gómez reminds the reader of the return: “Sometimes I search for the exact day / I stopped dreaming in the language / that sings my name. What it felt like / to watch something slowly drift away” (17). The speaker in “C(H)ORD” seeks memory “for shadows folded into syllables that ghost my throat” (34) to reclaim the loss: “I must trust with my life to jumpstart my stalled vocal / folds and guide my flawed body back into the world / I have abandoned” (35).
Time, marked on calendars, mapped on faces, and lost in death, echoes throughout the pages. In “Elegy for the longest year,” the moments merge:
I never ran
anywhere. I always ended up at the same
place. But I would return, always then, anyway
[. . .]
Everything I loved was temporary.
It was the morning Tίo was killed &
I sat at the top of the stairs of my attic
bedroom. You had twins on the way, Papi,
& I held a calendar that mapped a path
from the sadness & claimed it as my
home. I am a father now counting the days (29).
Weaving together the unsettling, the uncomfortable, with astute moments of introspection that explore the mapping of mind, body, and experience, Gómez takes the reader on a journey through love, hate, life, and loss. Fractures in an evocative poetry collection that challenges you to look and not walk away.
REBECCA BEARDSALL is the author of the memoir My Place in the Spiral. She co-edited three books, including Philadelphia Reflections: Stories from the Delaware to the Schuylkill. Rebecca is the nonfiction editor at Minerva Rising. She received her MA in English from Lehigh University and her MFA from Western Washington University. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Thimble, Origyns, SWIMM, West Texas Review, Two Cities Review, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Crab Fat, Amaranth, Common Ground Review, Poetry NZ, and Rag Queen Periodical. Find her at: rebeccabeardsall.com