Daniel Romo’s When Kerosene’s Involved
Prose poetry is often discussed and debated as to its standing in the poetic world. Some contend it is not poetry at all, but well constructed flash fiction. Daniel Romo does not bother entering this discussion, he simply presents prose poetry and dares the reader to enter a smoldering landscape of loss, and longing in his reissued and revisioned, When Kerosene’s Involved. One would be foolish to deny the poetic skill that this collection, offered by Mojave River Press, encompasses.
The first poem in any collection has a sturdy job to set tone and pull, if not invite, a reader into a world they are not part of. Romo sets to this task with the poem, “Singe”, a tale loss, and lets face it fire equals loss. This loss in this poem is that of a grandpa Manuel. Within these lines you do not only feel the speaker’s loss but also the loss grandpa Manuel has experiences in his life, He use to mow lawns and sculpt gardens eight hours a day. But after the crash, he only took walks around the block and picked the next-door neighbor’s forget-me-nots. Other poems do much to reinforce the theme of loss but none more stunningly than “Newborn”. This poem is captivation and repellant at the same breath. It refuses to allow the reader back into the easiness of their life by locking into the image of flame melting clothing into infant bodies: The babies are on fire. Wrapped in flame retardant onesies because their parents saw theirs futures as fetuses. But the clothing melts through the skin seeping into sour breast milk sucked during their last moments.
Loss comes in many forms often leading to longing, the other predominate theme of this collection. In the pieces “Dad’s Shoes”, and “Shit” the loss of youth is explored as years turn, and hence the longing for those years back. The amazing element of Daniel’s writing is how the everyday banalities of life, like taking a shit, become universal truths. Bus rides to and from school always smelled like shit, but I miss those days. I was young. Idealistic. And full our crap. Also a bit restless. The waiter surprised me with a chocolate cake. He overheard my son mention something about the card he’d given me. He signed it, “Congrats. You’re one step closer to death.” Within these words we see the truth of longing; it never leaves one alone.
Often, When Kerosene’s Involved places a magnify glass over the immigrant experience, as it artfully does with the Pancho poems and “Fun” without being preachy. It would be remiss not to mention that the Latino perspective is explored and validated throughout this book, but more pressingly the human experience is elevated in this book. There is no need for florid language but language of the street, the every day man, the now, to make it clear this is not just Romo’s life, but also our lives. In “Remnants” a man examines the life he has from what he was given. I like to think I’m a better person now. I like to think my children will be better than me because Child Services never had to visit my home. I raise my clenched hands to my face and find they look like my father’s. I spy a hangnail. Rip it from skin. This poem reminds us, we all long, we all know loss, and we are all comparing ourselves to the family that has paved our ways into this world.
So when the argument arises whether prose poetry is actually poetry at all, you can find your answer here with Daniel Romo’s When Kerosene’s Involved. Poetry is the art of every man. Poetry is the art that finds something lost yet smoldering in the soul, then takes kerosene to it, and with a match lights it a blaze with passion, leaving you with a longing for more.