The Life Assignment
Ricardo Alberto Maldonado
Silver Medalist for the Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award
Starred Review in Publishers Weekly
The speaker of the poems in The Life Assignment is reviewing his history. As if combing through a box of photographs, the speaker sorts through relationships, trying to discern what was healthy from what was exploitative. Concepts of love are turned over and over in these poems: romantic love, love of family, love of country, self-love (or lack thereof). Often the speaker finds that what at first appeared to be caring was insincere all along. When tenderness is in short supply, how can one protect oneself? How can one find home? In his debut collection, Ricardo Alberto Maldonado bends poems through bilingual lyrics that present spartan observation as evidence for its exacting verdict, “We never leave when life is elsewhere. The clemency of men disappears / as does the light, tarring the roofs.” An electric debut collection.
from I Give You My Heart Os doy mi corazón
I find myself on my feet with fifteen leaves.
Everything carries its own light on the walls.
I woke up to slaughter, my heart opening
to cemeteries of moon—
the parasites, the drizzle. The mud crowning
the undergrowth with immense sadness.
Me encuentro de pie con quince hojas.
Brilla todo en los muros.
Desperté en su sacrificio: mi corazón se abría
entre cementerios de luna—
los parásitos, la llovizna. El lodo coronando
la maleza con mustios grandes.
About the Author