When Kerosene’s Involved
by Daniel Romo
Black Coffee Press, 2013
100 pages / $12.95 buy from Amazon
Confession: I bought this book because the cover is pretty rad. I don’t even know how I came across the book, but I’m glad I did. The poems in here, as the title and cover suggest, are bundles of fire. Upon reading, the embers blaze into your guts and you are left a charred individual. Romo skillfully blends fantasy and narrative, pop culture and persona poems, while adhering to the integrity of the prose poem. Make no mistake: THESE are “prose” “poems.” They are not glorified flash-fiction incorrectly labeled as prose poetry, as much writing is today. The poetry in the book is first, foremost, and evident. Take the book’s first lines from the first poem, “Singe.”
Grandpa Manuel burned the beaks of chicks. Scooped them up in his rancher hands and played agricultural matchmaker: searing metal kissing their tiny mouths.
Already the reader is given a taste of what is to come throughout the rest of the book. The use of assonance, alliteration, and bold imagery create a world I want to visit. This is what true prose poems should do. And this is what the book does. Romo creates worlds of prose and poetry that are fun, fantastic, and painful. He writes about his experiences as a high school teacher and allows us to sit in his classroom while he teaches us along with the rest of his class. In “Pancho as Protagonist in the 9th Grade Grammar Book,” Romo uses Pancho not only an aid for teaching grammar, but as an aid for teaching life.
Pancho lives in Mexico with his family.
He sells Chiclets on the streets to help provide for them.
Pancho’s feet always ache. The soles of his sandals are sad.
It is not unusual for Pancho to hussle his gum upwards of ten hours a day, because even though he’s young, he understands the futility he faces. Nor is it unusual for his parents to search for ways to smuggle their family into Southernmost Cali; work their way upwards to Fresno where Fernando and his illegal clan pick grapes—sans fear of deportation because their boss knows what it’s like to feel half a human.
To feel like dirt. Lower than soil. Soot unfortunate ancestors’ bones are born into. A sedimentary caste.
Where were teachers like this when I was in high school? I do not know you, Daniel Romo, but oh, how I want to sit in on your class and learn to love the prose poem as you clearly do. And oh, how I would ask a zillion earnest questions, not caring if I were called Teacher’s Pet. And how I promise I’d never be like the speaker in “Prism” and
“…sit nailed to wooden desks, afraid to raise our hands.”