Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking: Poems

Acre. Feb. 2022. 78p. ISBN 9781946724489. pap. $16. POETRY
An immense tenderness underlies Salazar’s standout first collection. The poems probe the ever-presence of history, family, place, religion, and grief insisting on multidimensionality and the complicated ways the aforementioned entwine with us, for better and worse. The poems name the nameless and ephemeral (“I want to tell you how many churches/ I’ve built to praise little things that deserve/ more than their few seconds of existence”), and insist on remembrance, lest people and pain be erased, as in “All the Bones at the Bottom of the Rio Grande.” Transfigurations frequent the work (“like a paper/ tiger unfolding in a field, I am waiting / to be unrecognizable: how could I love you/ in one single shape?”), and this resonant theme buoys the collection with authentic, quiet joy, even amid pain. The collection left me thinking that perhaps everything lost—beliefs, people, strands of hair to a crow’s nest—might be returned or found, though in altered form, and in this way survive.
VERDICT A gorgeous, open-hearted debut.
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