The title of Rose Hunter's chapbook refers to the roadside crosses that mark the places where somebody has died in a car accident. The word means "resting places" in Spanish. The thirteen longish poems in descansos make up an interwoven meditation on the meaning and implications of such a death, its tragedy, of course, but the unresolved, intimate issues that surround such an event as well. Thus, descansos is itself a memorial, no less than the crosses to which it refers.
Fittingly, the very first word of "tongue," the first poem in the sequence, is "remember":
remember in any case what do we mean
ever, still: some people said
must have been your time, they said
everything happens for a reason
they used expressions like passing away
some mentioned deceased pets
but where did all the blood come from
the blood and the dust
casi instantuneamente what that means
also you were forty-seven
Dust comes back, like a memory, nine poems later in a poem with that title:
...dust to dust we say and mean a thing
but buddha says what do we even know
about a shard of dust, what a mystery, what
happened before the crash? If you'd worn sneakers
instead of flip flops....
And this reference to flip flops sends us back three poems to a poem with that title:
yet when these people don't have the details
straight on you, how difficult it is
to remember your name or pause
before switching to your boss you can't stand
And we're back again to memory, to remembering.
Except for the poems, "window washer" and "flip flops," both minimalist themselves, all have single–word titles, and all employ these minimalist two–line verses whose stark language is so allusive, suggestive.
The poem "window washer" concludes with these verses:
but selective memories I hang onto
even more since the burden of what
you held onto the strain on your face
your bones, do you know sometimes
i simply let go. the latest obsession
drama bit of fun or sorrow, one time
we kissed and when we looked up
the light had turned green and the other
cars gone. i remember it but not
how it was; the window washer saw
The window washer, who might grandiosely be thought of metaphorically as "the objective, all-seeing-eye" shows up again in the penultimate poem, carpenteria:
if i'd known then, right? if then, what?
now i see what the window washer saw.
And then the collection ends on the lines from the Buddha's Heart Sutra, which is all about the central Buddhist message of letting go:
gone gone gone. all the way to the other shore.
Memory can never let go, but memory leads, paradoxically, to release. Memories, then, are themselves descansos. Hunter's chapbook is an unflinching examination of grief, but grief without the self-pity; as she writes in the poem, "feline":
and you know how i pride myself, i say
i have no respect for those with weak stomachs
who shield their eyes or spare them what
can we do with spared eyes anyway
keep them in a box or a jar or little plastic
bag. desechables. In stead let's line up
and see with the eyes we have unspared.