I Don’t Know Do You by Roberto Montes
Ampersand Books, 2014; 95 pp
Reviewed by Billie Duncan
There are fifty-eight poems in ninety-five pages, which is 1.6 poems per page, unless you consider that some of the poems seem to be parts of other poems. There are three poems (that may be three parts of one poem) that are on pages but not listed in the table of contents (which may have been an error fixed by now or could be a sublime poetic statement). Thirty poems (depending on whether each title is actually a separate poem) contain images of water (rivers, lakes, showers, oceans and on and on), which means a water mention in 52% of the poems.
Some poems have many lines; some only have one—but that line goes on for quite a while with periods and capital letters and all that. In some other place and time it might be called a paragraph, but here it is a one-line poem—a very long one-line poem.
This is all very, very important. You must go through every word, every period, comma, line break, repeated title shard, all of it, bit by bit by bit. You must do the math.
Or, just buy the book. For yourself. For others. Read it quickly, then slowly. Then thumb the pages like a flipbook to see if any pictures form.
But buy it. Read it. Read it aloud on a balcony in the rain. Get drunk and read one very important poem long-distance to someone whose old phone number you just found in the pocket of a coat you never wear any more.
Roll around in the words. Get breathless. Lick the pages if you want to see if the words really taste different coming from this poet. (I did, and they do, but don’t tell anyone.)
Of course, it might help you decide if you can see some quotes, tiny samplings of the feast to come:
“All poets are queer and if you’re not queer you’re not a poet.”
“And each morning I am left / with the furious kindling of birds.”
“I deface my ark one terrible lizard at a time.”
“Death is what you’re dead about.”
“I hate the thatched roof that studies the flaming arrow but offers no advice.”
“It may seem unbelievable but fortune is a grown woman spinning the only wheel she isn’t tied to.”
“I want / to seed the fearful gladiola.”
“Outside dubbed / with a cathedral of birds.”
“Where my body tests / the earth the church bones gather.”
But it doesn’t really matter because some great lines in this book can’t be pruned out from their burning bushes; context is everything.
The reason my review of this exceptional book of poetry does not actually analyze or describe the book is because I want readers to discover its richness, surprises and fractal worlds for themselves. You don't need a map for this journey. You just need the book.
But to tide you over until the book is in your hands:
A rainbow trout is beautiful
only in dreams, and again, only if it can talk
and explain the mysteries of rivers.
Rivers are always beautiful.
Drowning in them is the marriage
of the inevitable with a belief in the immortal
which is a particularly beautiful limb of youth.
(Poems quoted above are, in order, “One way to be a person is to participate in a local community,” “Love Poem for Daytime Fireworks,” “One way to be a person is to graduate yourself from an institution,” “One way to be a person is to have a claim,” “One way to be a person is to be a model citizen,” “One way to be a person is to take matters into your own hands,” “Breaking News,” “After This Poem I Will Be Available To Sleep With,” “You Won’t Believe How Incredible You Could Be,” “The Poet Speaks Of Beauty.”)