Kendra DeColo / Jenkins

The Numinous Nightscapes of Kendra Decolo

By Arya F. Jenkins

Thieves in the Afterlife, DeColo
Thieves in the Afterlife
Kendra DeColo
978-0989979702
(2014, Saturnalia Books)
$15, Paper

To read Kendra DeColo’s first collection of poetry, Thieves in the Afterlife, is to be struck dumb for a while, and to find yourself staring at language as if it is a fire out of control that you dare not interrupt regardless of what and how much it burns.

Her language is explosive and her themes, challenging. One of the opening poems is about her clitoris, which she likens to a prison:

“…….Your rap sheet is decent
as a prisoner earning good time

in the library, eating pages of the dictionary
to stay alive…”

Her own body as well as actual prisons, seedy nightclubs, cemeteries, are her subjects and she explores them with gutsy ferociousness and glee, like a psychic surgeon at work on her own interior, recollections, vision. A sense of danger pervades as the poet steadfastly hulls what is both beautiful and unsettling out of dark, numinous places, as in “Anthem,” which sets the tone at the onset:

…. “The world

belongs to the panty-less

and unshaved.

God bless the subwoofer and carnival

ride-hitching, the jukebox

junkies, five-and-dime

store thieving laureate

of all things counterfeit

and candescent.”

DeColo’s poems are as richly raunchy as they are intimate and thoughtful. “Barnacle,” for example, lures with a voice as provocatively astringent as Plath’s and as playfully exuberant as Neruda’s:

“You suicide letter of glee, treble clef kiss, alphabet
of orgasms and mineral lung. You bootlegger of miracles, preacher
with a lisp.”

In the second part, the poet takes on the undersheath of strange male subjects—Gary Coleman, Rodney Dangerfield, an obnoxious male critic—as well as the male side of herself with uncompromising honesty and wicked insight.  Lusty wit and playfulness often underlie the serious, and seriousness often underlies the playful.

From “The Strap-On Speaks”—

“What am I to you
if not the climb

towards blinding light,

unmappable intimacies,
if not this apathy

of reckless stars…”

The numinous surfaces again in “After Seeing The Misfits” in the third section:

“To believe in a god so obscene
she cannot stop loving us
is to believe in our own goodness, no matter
how rough and unearthed, that one day I will love
back with the indigence of my body. Will hear the roar begin
in my palms and catch fire.”

In “Carnival, Provincetown,” the narrator manages to fuse the lust of her childhood with that of her grown self while registering the hungry sensuality and reserve of male bodies held at bay:

…”I want to take back
the clear light of August

humming at the end of the season,

wear it like a second sex,

every blue-vesseled body

and rippled gesture,”…

Armed with the fine pick of language, DeColo peels layers of truth searching out the holy inside the human, the human inside the natural, endowing the most surreal and unlikely subjects with beauty and incandescence.

Thieves in the Afterlife received the 2013 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize selected by Yusef Komunyakaa. DeColo is book editor at Muzzle Magazine, and guest teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. Another poetry collection, My Dinner with Ron Jeremy, is forthcoming from Third Man Books this May. She resides in Nashville.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 4.

Arya F. Jenkins Arya F. Jenkins’s poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in journals such as Agave Magazine, Brilliant Corners, Cleaver Magazine, The Feminist Wire and Provincetown Arts Magazine. Her poetry was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2015. She writes short stories for Jerry Jazz Musician, which commissioned her to write jazz fiction. Fiction is forthcoming in Burrow Press Review. Her poetry chapbook, Silence Has A Name, was published by Finishing Line Press February 2016. She is working on a third collection of poetry titled, Songs of Turbulent Leavings.

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