Puerto Rico: Editorial Pulpo. 2022. 38 pages.
Verónika Reca was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. This young poet, who holds degrees in digital photography and forensic criminology and has also worked in the field of thanatology, now shares El abrazo de los frijoles, her debut. Previously, she has taken part in readings and has published in journals and anthologies. This collection is made up of thirty-one poems that the Puerto Rican author has put together under the seal of Editorial Pulpo.
Objects become excuses to show what the author wants to express. The house speaks to her through the objects that dwell within it. Everything in the house seems to talk, to converse, to become an extension of whom and what lives inside.
Verónika Reca seems to tell us that objects are all one and the same, because she too is a collection of objects, and we readers come to feel the closeness of this unity seen through the particularities of the objects that make it up. “What can I say to the furniture/ that watches me absentmindedly/ while I wonder/ about being on them (…) How does one become a cactus?”
The poetic voice is the subject that the objects observe, analyze, interrogate… not vice versa. Likewise, the spaces of the house, its substances, the components and ingredients found within it are part of this anima that holds it up. So the house, its soul, is the furniture, the shelves, the stove, the kitchen table, the chairs, the cups, the cutlery, the cabinets, and the cupboards, among other objects. It is also the spices, the herbs, the vegetables: the fennel, the basil, the pepper, the oregano, the cacti, the hot sauce, the curdled milk, the grains of rice, and of course the beans, among other provisions. “The remedies have betrayed me./ My pins, bit by bit, lost their heads./ I hid in the salt shakers./ I used bacon for luck.”
In this collection not only do objects, the stuff of the house, justify a state of being, a way of feeling the world in a pandemic context; the poetic voice also moves away at times—scarce moments, really—from these physical bodies, not to escape the subject of the house and what it’s made of, but rather to reveal the calamity, the emptiness, the desperation—or should I say despair?—of the orphanhood in which we find ourselves within our own homes, in our own shared living spaces.
El abrazo de los frijoles is a territory of “closed spaces,” “the empty room,” embraces unexchanged. Perhaps this is why it seems to look longingly back to the past, and even still to sing an ode to sadness. Some rituals stretch on in time, making of themselves offerings to obedience. Even drinking a cup of coffee can become a paradox. The house, sometimes, is a sad place, a place for comings-apart, a site for sadness.
The everyday demands of staying home mid-pandemic come up against writing itself, the clichés of any writer. Everything points toward things beginning to forget their uses after so much time spent with them and, at the same time, after leaving them so alone, so abandoned to their own devices.
Verónika’s verse is stripped-down and free of unnecessary adornment. It does not care to be beautiful—even though it is—because it prefers to wander down the hallways, around the corners, through the cupboards, among the spaces of the house that now seem to have another connotation, because we never know what we are, nor what the other is, until we remain within such spaces, for so long and so alone. The flower, the flowerpot, the sofa, the beans take on other forms of perception, others ways of being with them and within them. The flatware, the cutlery, and even the dust take on a human nature that makes us more compassionate, more sensitive.
This collection’s verses seem to inherit the outcry of a voice that lies in lockdown, not finding a way to remain in a world that now vibrates at a different frequency. A voice that says “all our embraces are enormous questions.” The earth quakes, but Verónika does not quake with it.
Translated by Arthur Malcolm Dixon