Winner of the New Delta Review 2014-2015 Chapbook Contest.
I was drawn to Leslie Marie Aguilar’s Mesquite Manual by its formal variety and its ferocious facility of language. The book, like its titular subject, is tough and delicate, aromatic, evasive and invasive. This manual instructs us to take apart the tenacious mysteries of this desert world and reassemble them into the sweet transpiring forage of lucid dreams.
“I have two tongues / waving like clay hands // baked in the kiln of my mouth.” Are you serious? Again and again I am stunned—like the breath knocked out of me, reading lines again and again, putting my head in my hands, that kind of stunned—by the weird and impossibly beautiful conjuring these poems are and do. Mesquite Manual reminds me the way good poems can, time to time, change the actual world before our eyes, or in our hands, or beneath our feet. This is a wonderful book.
Like Dante’s Inferno, Mesquite Manual is a lyric guidebook through the often hellish landscapes of a mythologized Texas; a landscape where we encounter wildfire and fire ants, rituals of abuse and condemnation, horned grinning jackalopes, tumbleweed rosaries, sugar skulls, pecan trees, chain links and scorpions in ecstatic embrace. These visionary poems douse and drench the skeletal plains with rich, powerful imagery and superb language, until they are alive, conjuring up possibilities for remaking the past, present and future—without borders—with love and healing. Aguilar makes poems with a deep attention to craft and they simultaneously offer the ambiguities and depth we find in the best of poetry.
You can purchase a copy of Mesquite Manual here.