A. Imagine this:
sitting on the wraparound porch of your grandmother’s house in the heat of summer. starting on the porch steps licking popsicles with your best friend. planning cookouts and lazy days in the sun. moving to the porch swing as your knees knock together. waiting to be called in for dinner. talking about leaving this someday. soon. looking off into the distance when the giggles turn serious and the weight of words are so heavy neither of you can hold them with your eyes, so you both look away.
huddled in the attic of your best friend’s house wrapped in thick blankets in the dead of winter. flashlight standing in the middle of the room as you whisper (make sure they don’t hear you!) forest stories. wolves and blood and trees turned so terrible you may have conjured them down into the living room. holding fast to your best friend’s hand as the walls shake from the thunder below and if her eyes trickle a bit, you’re kind enough not to notice.
Now, what if I told you both of these are happening in you at the same time? Can you hold the truth of this? Jasmine Sierra’s Paradox demands you do.
B. In her first chapbook, Sierra brings us thirteen poems that pull us into a resurrection.
The first line she gives us is:
“THIS IS NOT A STORY ABOUT BLOOD”
so the first thing you think about is, of course, the red that isn’t there.
Even as the poem moves in still, you cannot help but imagine the blood bubbling in the background.
We move on to poems where lines like this:
“( mother begged for sheep.
mother get wolf. (i)mother get wolf. )
Appear. Can you hear the gnashing, the guilt that does not belong here? That this is what you’re left with, when you’re sitting in the sun with your friend, silent?
“make me believe
i’m not the monster
with sharp teeth.”
Remember how the flashlight was supposed to comfort, how you brought it inside the house? Sierra makes sure you know that the light may not always pierce the dark, but to bring your glow and look into the shadows in spite of it; the fact that she does it all in so few words is nothing short of breathtaking.
C. I read these poems after the Orlando Pulse shooting. I am writing this review after hearing about Alton Sterling, unsure of how to mourn, if there is anything left in me to do so. This is all to say, Jasmine Sierra has found me in a terrible un-end, something so heavy I never think I can get up from under it. But her words have pulled me out of my grief just enough for me to carry it better. Jasmine’s words have asked me to be still/ to still be/ to listen to listen. And in a world where everything is loud danger you cannot escape, there is no greater gift this artists can share with us.
Jasmine Sierra is a jaded twentysomething who has recently graduated from Oberlin College, and is currently taking a small break before returning to school for an MFA in poetry. She has been featured in Winter Tangerine, Vagabond City Literature, Unrooted, Blackberry Magazine, and a number of her local college publications.
You can read more of Jasmine’s work here, here, and contact her here.