Separation always comes with fear. In a world held in place by human connection, we agonize over the slightest disjunction, worry about the possibility of it foreboding a more permanent estrangement. But in The Collapse of What Separates Us, it is not severance that terrifies, proposes a greater upheaval, but collusion. After all it is much easier to avoid, and infinitely more difficult to enter into entanglement with the other.
The poet walks through the city, a flâneur, transcribes its attempts at coherence and the fragmentations that arise from them. He unweaves a tapestry of relationships and transforms them into words: wound, fog, market, shadow, café, mirror, static. Human experience translates into paper (“The face is the page on which the city writes”) through etymology, space, form and structure: line cuts mirror the obliqueness of lives, at times intersecting in angles, and at other times never adhering (again, or in the first place). And throughout all this, the city comes to define the person: “You have / lived in several cities, I have lived in only / one”, and persona and landscape merge into one.
Collapse does not merely consist of poems; it is poetry in itself. A cold beauty permeates these pages: wide spaces, clean cuts dividing almost prosaic lines, scenes, entire paragraphs (“A paragraph is a city”); fragmentations abound. Words, lines, shadows “corrode into closeness” only to abandon themselves again: “the sea / departs from / itself with each / wave” and “What were once cities of paragraphs are now islands of words.”
I found the last poem “Café” the most revealing and most intimate in the collection. It is also my favorite. The last page talks about “the space separating door and room, touch and escape”: the yearning for cohesion and the immediacy of flight; an acknowledgment of the former’s perils. But despite this, “To free the self from itself” remains a desirable task, and while the complications of entanglement do pose difficulties, it nevertheless—as Conchitina Cruz writes in her foreword—“does little to diminish the yearning.”