“For Mich in this brightly lit room—here’s to our being in place sometimes,” the poet signed, January 21, 2011. That day, armed with a copy of this book, I ambushed her in Ateneo after she gave a Heights talk on the poetic line (along with Conchitina Cruz and Ayer Arguelles). Shy, embarrassed, almost giddy with excitement: this is how I remember myself. Smiling, gracious, maybe a little flattered: how I remember Mabi David. Four months since, and I have just finished her book.
You Are Here records a series of scenes, stories, and moments that commemorate being at a certain place at a certain time. It chronicles the everyday metamorphosis of a city “made and remade” by its inhabitants, those of us who make a habit of “hollow[ing] the city out again / and again.” The city defines man, this we know; but here the poet tells us that man also comes to define the city. Regardless, “There was no need to make what we could / of [the world’s] unmending, welcome / becoming: / the day is full and it is / here, the day is full and it is / now.”
Solitude characterizes the personas in this collection. Describing them, the poet speaks of an individual “vigilance.” Curiosity ends in observation; each person is set apart. For, quite rightly, “Who wants to be saddled with another’s loneliness?” Yet we cannot avoid entangling ourselves with the other (a dilemma explored in The Collapse of What Separates Us). We recognize that the world is a space where solitudes collide, where what matters is not language, nor place, nor time, nor anything else, “but that someone holds / you, you are held in place.” The world may be “unmindful”—but it no longer matters.
Although I liked the project, I found it difficult to relate to or even enjoy some poems because of their specificity. I know that it’s part of the project, capturing personal moments, but perhaps therein also lies the difficulty, the distance this creates between poem and reader. I also struggled with many unfamiliar phrasings. I found constant rereading a necessity for comprehension. Because of this I think the enjoyment this collection offers is of an intellectual variety, not an emotional one. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the easy-to-read “Soliloquy” series constitute my favorite poems. The first one, especially; it gave me goose bumps. I would love to read more.