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The Cardboard House - Martín Adán, Katherine Silver

It must have something to do with the presence of the paragraph. That which makes it obvious that one isn’t reading poetry. The paragraph, distinguished from those lines of eneven lengths, which may or may not rhyme. The presence of paragraphs, that tell me, just maybe, I’ll be able to understand what I’m preparing to read. Wonderful, wonderful paragraphs.

But, there are those damned prose poems. Those deceptive paragraphs which, may or may not, yield up meaning, or understanding, or anything that a reader who’s almost exclusively drawn to prose might expect (hope for?). The familiar made alien by inclusion in the prose poem. And sometimes, sometimes, the familiar made alien is exactly what one wanted without knowing it. Exactly what was needed at a particular time. Exactly…perfect.

In Martín Adán’s The Cardboard House, readers are treated to the sensations, memories, reflections of a narrator whose family vacationed in the Barranco section of Lima, once a seaside resort, more recently (like the fortunes of the narrator’s family) fallen into disrepair. It’s the story of first loves, friends, friendly rivalry, tourists, loss, and so, so much more. Minus, of course, the story, which is only suggested, hinted at, revealed in its absence. A story the way a poet might tell it.

This afternoon, the world is a potato in a sack. The sack is a small, white, dusty sky, like the small sacks used for carrying flour. The world is little, dark, gritty, as if just harvested in some unknown agricultural infinity. I have gone to the countryside to see the clouds and the alfalfa fields. But I have gone almost at night, and I will no longer be able to smell the smells of the afternoon, tactile, that are smelled through the skin. Out of its dusty whiteness, the sky—affiliated with the vanguard—creates round, multicolored clouds that at times look like German balls and at others, really, like the clouds of Norah Borges. Now I have to smell colors. And the road I take turns into a crossroads. And the four pathways born to the road screech like newborn babes: they want to be rocked, and the wind turns into a swinging young dandy after nightfall and does not want to rock roads: the air puts on oxford trousers, and there is no way to convince it that it is not a man. I walk away from the sky. And, as I leave the country side, surrounded by urbanizations, I notice the countryside is in the sky: a flock of fat, fleecy clouds—award winners at the Exposition—romp about in the green sky. And this I see from far away, so far away that I get into bed to sweat colors.

Norah Borges’ Clouds

Norah Borges’ clouds.

Not for everyone, perhaps, but certainly one for the poets out there, or the poetry-inclined, or the poetry-tolerant (those, like myself, who can occasionally muddle through any type of writing as long it’s beautiful; and this is). Five stars, enthusiastically given, just for you, maybe, if you’re of a mind to…