Romancing Gravity by Daniel Romo
Silver Birch Press, 2013
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor
Romancing Gravity is a book with balls. Stickball, baseball, football, tee ball. Swear words, anger, regret. Drive-in movies, magic shows, liquor stores. Current events, social commentary, nostalgia. And a car chase. It’s got prose poems, free verse, and a sestina that repeats the words “bugaboo,” “uvula,” and “cajones.” Yes, “cajones.” That takes cajones.
Along with tough colloquialisms and street smarts, this book delivers its wisdom from hindsight with plenty of humor and some occasional sound effects: “Boom…Boom…/ Boom….” Scary images arise organically or from the efforts of fearmongers: “She says birds are a dying breed of matchsticks, striking the fuse with the tips of their beaks. Runaway balloons are the severed grasping hands of children, inflated aspirations set ablaze ‘round campfire songs gone awry.”
There is a disturbing helplessness in “Aquamarine,” about underwater children. A more than disturbing cruelty in “National Championship,” where no one seems to realize what’s really at stake. (It’s not the national championship.) And poignant empathy for a homeless man, and for a remembered worm squirming on a hook, in “Fellow Man.”
Just in time for Halloween, here are some witches from “The Other Side of Town”:
Three witches walk towards me
down Artesia Boulevard
armed with eyebrows like
my father’s temper.
I fear witches more than heights,
clowns, and spiteful waiters.
Reading Romancing Gravity, by Daniel Romo, was like taking a guided tour through bad neighborhoods, troubled schools, the past, the present, and the air. The title phrase comes from a gorgeous prose poem called “Swings” that begins, “In third grade I threw Theo Dean off his swing. He soared, beautiful, more bird than boy.” It’s a terrifying image, creating suspense as well as its stunning beauty. “Flailing limbs romancing gravity—more acquainted with the clouds than any other kid at Kennedy Elementary.” I won’t tell you what happens, nor the leaf pile of reasons we wish it wouldn’t, ever, but I will tell you there was no soft landing for me, someone with her own swing incident, in fifth grade, at Fairview Elementary, and this poem brought it all back.
There’s probably a poem in here that will bring you down to earth, too, or fill you with the gravity of the truth, or pull on you with mysterious and inevitable force.
Go on, read Romancing Gravity. I dare you.