If there’s one thing (of many) I’ve learned, from reading Sara Comito’s “Bury Me in the Sky,” it’s this: she will not spare her reader. Will not spare them both heartache and beauty. These poems swagger with a razor sharp sense of the body, while committing themselves to lyric foreplay.
Consider the first poem in the collection, “Sweet Formication,” a poem rich in synaptic leaps and frenetic use of line break, to bring the reader to their knees. Formication means, “a sensation like insects crawling over the skin,” a metaphor that will worm its way through many of the book’s lines. Not only is the poem effective in balancing heartache and beauty, but does so with its jagged use of line break and lyric, to entice the reader and land a real gut punch. When I first read the poem’s title, I saw “Sweet Fornication,” a slip anchored in my patriarchal lense, and used then to deliciously dissect that gaze. I would be remiss in ignoring this slip in word association. A slip I assume was used by Comito to blur the lines of body and lyric. Comito writes in line one, “the ant wants to eat my honey,” a line aroused in feral want and the culture’s need for more. She later prophecies the end to that need in line three of the second stanza, comparing it to “the mosquito in the amber.”
That mosquito in the amber is the image that will not leave you while reading these poems. This notion of being stuck inside the very want that has or soon will end you, haunts Comito’s narrative fractals. In “Charming Rub,” a poem set inside a house at a seemingly plain hour of the day, the speaker confesses their possessiveness for the things around them. In line one, Comito writes: “Even indoors when sunlight is at my/whim,” an image steeped in magic realism and a godlike sense of ownership, and then “morning glories open/and close to show me the season of day.” Do you see the mosquito in the amber brewing? The speaker staking claim to natural occurrences–sunlight, morning glories–as if even the natural world revolves around them. This ownership is both beauty and terror, the result of a speaker searching for meaning, while maintaining a sense of self in life’s revolving tinctures and dilutions. Comito writes later in the poem, “We keep our fires in those houses,/our poor magic burning under the stew” and suddenly the poem has blossomed just like those morning glories. Now no longer a poem written with a singular authority but a voice of voices, of generations past.
These voices of the past argue, bicker and bite. They bleed Comito, and corner the reader with a want for more. In “Historical Constraint,” one of my favorites from the collection, an entire life packed in seven searing lines, Comito leads the reader from sex to spousal disagreements, to strangefied scenes — “Moved the bed to the living room”– and then to an unnamed boy, a mango tree and a “plague of flies.” Damn! The poem disrupts and tears open. It blows the entire book apart. No longer is the book a collection of poems about the roadmap of the body, but about torment and myopia, about languid lust and a love splintered and bruised. And the boy? Who the hell is the boy? His presence, or lack thereof, the echo eating the white space. Here’s the poem:
Had to take a ride past the old house
where we had that sex we had that fight.
Moved the bed to the living room, moved
the boy to the back. That mango tree. Too
high to ever pick and the fruit spoils in a
plague of flies. The old lines make no sense.
French doors opening to the reggaeton.
What reggaeton? So far the book has fared life’s many difficulties, by digesting them through stripped confessions, and as this poem proves: pause. So where’s the music? It’s all over the place. But before it can be hip swayed and sung to, it must be allowed to sing. A reader must allow these poems their chance to sing, as they so deftly do; not mute them by their sometimes (often) emotionally difficult material. As I said, Comito will not spare you. But she will offer you jazz, a sashay of sounds swooned inside a palm frond. This music is of mud and frog bellies, of children no longer alive. One can see this in the poem “Dark Island Landing” where Comito writes: “In forest edge dark/The god screeches./the frogs,/the night lilies,/the open throated/children to the suckling sky.” In a poem called “Dedication,” the shortest of the book, Comito proves tenderness can exist inside brutality. She writes: “For dead dogs/and stolen children,/a special heaven/with rubber balls/and each other.” Not only, as these poems prove, is Comito’s lyric agility, but also her tenderness. Just enough peppered in to give you air as you dive in the depths of her subconscious.
Consider, before you read this, finding a safe place to breathe. I say that so you are warmly indwelled by Comito’s song. It’s no small feat, but it’s necessary. A world inside a body of worlds. Beneath the callus and scars in these lines are gardens of blooming gardenia. But like I said, be safe. Put the children to bed. Put the lover to bed. Put the dog to bed. Put the TV to bed. Put your other books to bed. Put your writing to bed. And pour yourself a drink. Or don’t. Either way, I want you to laugh and cry and gasp. To crave and be craved. To break and be buried. Comito’s poems are the right howls to do that.
Luke Johnson was born and raised in Cayucos, CA, and later graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in History. When he isn’t vacuuming or chasing kids, he spends his time writing. He is a published poet, sports blogger and editor with years of experience creating targeted online content. He lives on the California coast with his wife, three children and Bluepoint Siamese cat named Louie. His poems can be found or forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, The Florida Review, Nimrod, Tinderbox, Thrush, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Greensboro Review, The Cortland Review and Connotation Press among others. His poem, Messenger, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Tilde and Hum was nominated “Best of the Net” by Cultural Weekly. His work was also a finalist for The Pablo Neruda Prize and The Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Award. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada College. Luke is an athlete turned poet. A born “stat” machine, he is also passionate about sports reporting. He loves to delve into topical subjects that take like- comparisons, arranging the arguments with humor and wit. It is the humorist in him that develops his pieces and makes the sports world both dynamic and fun. He co-founded the website, Fansmanship.com and additional sports content has been featured on Bleacher Report, The Sportster and Campus Sports.