Copper Canyon. Apr. 2024. 144p. ISBN 9781556596698. pap. $22. POETRY
Poet/activist Metres (Shrapnel Maps), whose family migrated from Lebanon to Mexico in the early 1900s and then to the United States after his great-grandfather’s murder, here profitably refracts the refugee experience through his family’s history. Emphasizing the pain of a culture lost yet still somehow present, he speaks of “inheriting a key to the door / that exists only in the I remember / of elders” and the ease provided by the sound of the oud, even as it recalls (echoing Robert Frost) “miles of ghosts beneath our sleep.” Further details are provided by the intriguing footnoting of an Arabic translation of his poem “The Ballad of Skandar” (“great-grandfather / where have you gone?”) and an examination of the family’s brutal crossing at Laredo, complete with a reprint of a manifest from the U.S. Department of Labor; exploring the multiple meanings of “manifest” throughout embodies the poet’s search for clarity and understanding. Expanding on his theme, Metres offers “A Chronology of Roads” (“Once, salt was the power to cross the unmapped”); crafts multiple poems recalling treacherous sea crossings in fragmented, wave-tossed lines; considers homelessness in the United States; and finally advises “Traveler, there is no road.”
VERDICT A wide-ranging work of current import, shaped by an intimate and urgent tone that draws in the reader.
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