Cynthia Cruz’s second collection, The Glimmering Room, beckons readers down into the young speakers’ dark underworld, and because we are seduced by Cruz’s startling imagery and language rich with “Death’s outrageous music,” we follow willingly. The poems wander in and out of their own American wastelands—strip malls, bus stations, state psychiatric hospitals, “the Starver’s Ward // With the other almost-girls”—with a loneliness “so brutal / It is beautiful.” Peopled with “ambassadors from the Netherworld”—the orphaned and abused, the lost and addicted—Cruz leads us through this “traveling minstrel show / Called girlhood—” which is at once tragic and magical.
From “Strange Gospels” to stark, entrancing dispatches from inside the hospital walls, these poems give voice to the voiceless in the face of poverty, addiction, war, and consumerism. “I am diseased with this / Recurring dream that is / My life,” one speaker declares, and we are devastated not by a godless world, but by a world rife with the “God of gas station bathrooms / And of girls held hostage / Inside their own bedrooms,” a God who “does not keep/ The demons back.” Relentless in its descent into “the mind’s outrageous factory,” the book’s redemption lies not in pulling us back from the edge, but in its refusal to look away or to let us forget: “memory// That warm slop of honey, / seeping. No way to stop it / And its gorgeous hurricane of bees.”
“Star,” from The Glimmering Room:
In the homeless shelter-slash-
Greyhound Station in Springfield,
Mass., the loneliest man and woman
Just limped past me
“Cruz’s characters—coerced, lonely, drugged, abused, desperate, abandoned, sick—are perpetually on the edge of oblivion. Only the intensity and sympathy of Cruz’s attention keeps them from passing over into disaster. No one seen this clearly and known this perfectly can ever truly be lost from the world—or forgotten by the reader.” —Joel Brouwer
“Would that this book-as-gun shot mere blanks. No. Rather, its deadly content offers sky-burnt formulas, medicated rituals, sly lies that turn into bare truths uglier than any you ever knew or came across. Yes. Intelligence marries pain. Yet, to read these poems is to continually plummet. Diagnosed, feverish, starving, malevolent, and startlingly to the point (‘You ask why I starve myself, why / my friends are all dead.’), the speaker of these poems is an onslaught of her own making. The Glimmering Room is a savage and stunningly coherent collection that turns the so-called ‘post-confessional’ mode on its head.”
“…“The Glimmering Room” is an exquisite fever dream of drugs, anorexia and unwanted sex (in both senses of the word) populated by young women and men — the walking dead — who have lost all sense of where the edge is….” Read the full review.
“The music of Cruz’s poems is riddled with glitter and shards, Seconal and disco balls…. With a formidable voice that weaves together the blunt intensity of Sylvia Plath and the drugged charisma of The Velvet Underground, Cruz utters truths others would fear to pronounce.” Read the full review.