Tara Isabel Zambrano’s full-length flash collection, Death, Desire, and Other Destinations (Okay Donkey Press, 2020), illuminates, enchants. I’m awestruck with Zambrano’s effortless talent, her swings from stark realism to inventive magic realism. She is ingenious employing both styles, revealing beautifully those sought after and those lost.
“Feeding Time” draws me into a family’s financial crisis and a sparrow, also dwelling within this starving house. After the bird’s inadvertent injury by way of a fan, “Papa says it’s something to do with feeding her chicks, the bird’s always in a hurry.” The Papa saying this is brilliant irony; he is unable to feed his own family. And I admire the surreal story, “In Its Entire Splendor.” The narrator is swallowed by a lover, only to find “a shrine of love and hope that makes his blood more vibrant, his breath sweet, reminiscent of all.” The imagery throughout Zambrano’s flash is superb. In fact, all of the stories in this collection enliven the senses with a fresh uniqueness.
Then there is the heart, portrayed in many stories, either as a destination for longing or hope. I asked Zambrano about this vital organ appearing in her work. “I have always been influenced by certain aspects of [the] human body and mind. And heart, to me, is a physical entity…for the things one truly wants in life. To combine the two has always ended in compositions like ‘Scooped-Out Chest’….’” In this extraordinary story, a heart escapes out of a chest. An open wound of fleeing love remains. Finally the narrator can only shout: “We have always found our way back to each other…”
It is as if this writer has seen us, our own trenched out chests at times, and translated us brilliantly onto the page with care. This collection is a gift.
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Along with teaching creative writing workshops and literature courses, he is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at https://twitter.com/danbillyc