C. Dale Young
Reviewed in Publishers Weekly
Featured in The Millions’ “Must-Read Poetry: February 2021”
“Some men find nothing, and others / find omens everywhere,” writes C. Dale Young in Prometeo, a collection whose speaker is a proverbial “child of fire.” In poems that thrive off of their distinct voice, the speaker confronts generational and lived trauma and their relationship to his multi-ethnicity. We are presented with the idea of the past’s burial in the body and its constellatory manifestations—both in the speaker and those around him—in disease and pain, but also in strength and a capacity for intimacy with others and nature. Grounded in precise language, Young’s examination of the past and its injuries turns into a celebration of the self. In stark, exuberant relief, the speaker proclaims “…I was splendidly blended, genetically engineered / for survival.” Resilient, Young’s poems find beauty in landscape, science, and meditation.
Deep in the fields, the greenish stalks were twice
my height, a forest for one who had not seen
the likes of oaks or birches. Sugar’s vice
hung in the air, its sweetness somewhere between
a pastry and decay. In memory, the cane
opened its arms allowing a boy to escape.
But memory lies so well, the fields of cane
as much a trap as any means of escape.
Too young to wield a machete, far too young,
I vanished down the endless rows of cane,
my mother screaming out for me to stop.
The yard hands hacked out space to plant the young.
For them, what safety there among the cane.
For me, it’s where I learned to beg a man to stop.