There were a fair number of poems in here I liked a lot And there were some that didn t do so much for me Generally, I liked the ones about the history of conflict between American Indians and European settlers and how her own experiences growing up reflected that conflict , about women, about desire sex, and about her brother going to war.I didn t so much like the ones about the eponymous brother and his meth habit Which is maybe because some drug usage is sort of squicky to me, but also, I think, because there was a lot of repetition in those poems And there was a sort of niceness there, in that they all flowed into each other, and read as a cohesive series But it felt like there wasn t enough to distinguish them from each other I guess I didn t really understand what she was doing with form in each poem I didn t understand what it was that separated them, and so it ended up feeling like just a compilation of everything she d written on the subject, with a lot of similar lines used in each because she couldn t quite decide where they went best.I m just trying to describe what there was in me that wasn t enraptured by those poems I really don t mean to criticize Diaz s depictions of her life I m glad that she wrote the poems, and I do feel that they were effective in conveying the feeling of the experiences she s describing.And actually, the poem that was most interesting not most arresting, but most interesting to me, was My Brother at 3 A.M , which was written as a sort of pontoon that wasn t a pontoon The lines were repeated, but not exactly, so that He pointed to the corner house became My brother pointed to the corner house , and His lips flickered with sores became Mom winced at the sores on his lips And that was Interesting, and, I felt, hinted at the unpredictable nature of a life disrupted in that manner Not that I Know what I m talking about at all in that respect, but I don t know It was interesting.And so yeah As a whole, the book was good I enjoyed it I recommend it. Natalie Diaz, ConjurerPoetry as turgid with metaphors, as disturbing, raw, and, a veces, humorous and sly and naughty doesn t happen often, but in this collection WHEN MY BROTHER WAS AN AZTEC Natalie Diaz manages to travel this bumpy terrain with such a sure hand that the result is staggering Perhaps a part of the intensity of her writing is that as a woman born and raised on an Indian Reservation and that, without parody intended, is why she writes like a necromancer, an augurer, a sorceress a conjurer This poet sees feels defines life in a situation close to her so well that she makes her reader finish a poem ad immediately return to the top of the poem to make sure it is fully digested before moving on to the next experience Read Natalie Diaz and understand life on a reservation.ABECEDARIAN REQUIRING FURTHER EXAMINATION OF ANGLIKAN SERAPHYM SUBJUGATION OF A WILD INDIAN REZERVATIONAngel s don t come to the reservation.Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.Coyotes, too They all mean the same thing death And deatheats angels, I guess, because I haven t seen an angelfly trough this valley ever.Gabriel Never heard of him Know a Gabe though he came through here one powwow and stayed, typicalIndian Sure he had wings,jailbird that he was He flies around In stolen cars Wherever he stops,kids grow like gourds from women s bellies.Like I said, no Indian I ve ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something Nazarene church holds one every December,organized by Pastor John s wife It s no wonderPastor John s son is the angel everybody knows angels are white.Quit bothering with angels, I say They re no good for Indians.Remember what happened last some white god came floating across the ocean Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angelsup there, living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearingvelvet robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey form silver cups,we re better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and zactly where they are in their own distant heavens.You better nope you never see angels on the rez If you do, they ll bemarching you off toZion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they ve mapped out for us.The title of this collection suggests that we are going to hear a lot about Diaz brother, and we do A fragment of a longer poem follows 3 aka delusional parasitosisDope is what my dad calls it He never says meth.And the dope always has my brother It s that dope,my dad sighs, that dope s got him.My dad once took us to the railroad tracks,gave each of his nine kids a penny to set on the rusted rails.My brother wanted a dollar, not a penny.Because it s hard to turn a firstborn son away, he got it,shoved it down into his pocket, walked away from us.We placed our pennies along the rails he balanced on,his heels squeaked against the metal, arm stretchedout on each side I knew that he d do it He d crucify himselfone day, just like that day arms nailed to a horizon of salt cedars,date palms, the purple mountains behind him sharp as needles.These two samples, seductive though they are, represent only a glimpse at the wealth of philosophy and poetry and social comment that lies within Natalie Diaz is a poet to heed, to read, to remember, to follow Brilliant Grady Harp I Write Hungry Sentences, Natalie Diaz Once Explained In An Interview, Because They Want And Lyricism And Imagery To Satisfy Them This Debut Collection Is A Fast Paced Tour Of Mojave Life And Family Narrative A Sister Fights For Or Against A Brother On Meth, And Everyone From Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, And Jesus Is Invoked And Invited To Hash It Out These Darkly Humorous Poems Illuminate Far Corners Of The Heart, Revealing Teeth, Tails, And Than A Few Dreams I Watched A Lion Eat A Man Like A Piece Of Fruit, Peel Tendons From Fascialike Pith From Rind, Then Lick The Sweet Meat From Its Hard Core Of BonesThe Man Had Earned This Feast And His Own Deliciousness By Ringing A Stickagainst The Lion S Cage, Calling Out Here, Kitty Kitty, Meow W Ith One Swipe Of A Paw Much Like A Catcher S Mitt With Fangs, The Lionpulled The Man Into The Cage, Rattling His Skeleton Against The Metal Bars The Lion Didn T Want To Do It He Didn T Want To Eat The Man Like A Piece Of Fruit And He Told The Crowdthis I Only Wanted Some Goddamn Sleep Natalie Diaz Was Born And Raised On The Fort Mojave Indian Reservation In Needles, California After Playing Professional Basketball For Four Years In Europe And Asia, Diaz Returned To The States To Complete Her MFA At Old Dominion University She Lives In Surprise, Arizona, And Is Working To Preserve The Mojave Language The most prominent part of Diaz s When My Brother Was an Aztec is the exploration of the poet s identity, growing up in the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation as in Hand Me Down Halloween , and coming to terms with her brother s meth addiction as in No More Cake Here The year we moved off the reservation a white boy up the street gave me a green trash bagfat with corduroys, bright collared shirts a two piece Tonto costumeturquoise thunderbird on the chest shirt pants Hand Me Down Halloween pg 6 Two mutants came to the door.One looked almost human They wantedto know if my brother had willed them the potsand pans and spoons stacked in his basement bedroom.They said they missed my brother s cooking and did wehave any cake No cake here, I told them Well, what s in the pi atathey asked I told themGod was and they ran into the desert, barefoot.I gave Dad his slide and put Mom s in the freezer I brought up the pots and pans and spoons really, my brother was a horrible cook , banged themtogether like a New Year s Day celebration No More Cake Here pg 69 The poems include snippets of Spanish, and make frequent reference to the Spanish poet Federico Garc a LorcaGod created us with absencein our hands, but we will not return that way.Not now, when we are both so capable of growing fullon banquets embroidered by Lorca s gypsy nun I Lean Out the Window and She Nods Off in Bed, the Needle Gently Rocking on the Bedside Table pg 81 to shut my eyes one nighton the delta shadows between your shoulder blades mysterious wings tethered insidethe pale cage of your body run throughby Lorca s horn of moonlight,strange unicorn loose along the dim streetsseparating out skins to be still again knowing Monday Aubade pg 83 Tonight, after reading Lorca s Cante jondo, I m ready, dressedfor the procession, for Jesus s wounds, the mob s red dresses.The gitana s savage hair charges the night, nocturno de guerra, battle field of a thousand and one bulls Their weapon violet red dresses.Santa Teresa, torera, sacrificed her body to the pale horns A FirstConfession the split fruit made my thighs buck under my red dress Lorca s Red Dress pg 87 The collection contains a number of prose poemsEach night after dinner, Mojave Barbie sneaked from the guesthouse next to the tennis courts and Hairtastic Salon to rendezvous with Ken, sometimes in the collapsible Glamour Camper, but most often in the Dream Pool She would yenni Ken all night long Yenni was the Mojave word for sex, explained a culturally informative booklet included in Mojave Barbie s box, along with an authentic frybread recipe, her Certificate of Indian Blood, a casino plater s card, and a voided per capita check They took precautions to prevent waking others inside the Dream House Mojave Barbie s tan webbed hand covering Ken s always open mouth muffled his ejaculations The Last Mojave Indian Barbie pg 27 Naked blue boy put down your pipe They found your shoes in the meadow Mom s and Dad s hearts are overripe A Brother Names Gethsemane pg 64 A sweeping gesture to the thorn of mast jutting from my mother s spine spine a series of narrow steps leading to the temple of her neck where the things we worship demand we hurl her heart from that height, still warm, still humming with the holy music of an organ Self Portrait as Chimera pg 77 I watched a lion eat a man like a piece of fruit, peel tendons from fascia like pith from rind, then lick the sweet meat from its hard core of bones The man had earned this feast and his own deliciousness by ringing a stick against the lion s cage, calling out, Here, Kitty Kitty, MeowA Wild Life Zoo pg 101 My favourite passage in the collection Why did you cover the bedroom windows with yesterday s newspaper The pages are yellow, the stories are old The Mercy Songs to Melancholy pg 23 My favourite poem in the collection There are certain wordsyou can t say in airports words that mean bomb, blow up, jihad,hijack, terrorist, terrorism, terrorize,terrific fucking terror And words like orange small citrus grenades,laced with steel seeds, rinds linedwith anthrax Security cameras scan and scrutinizeCalifornians Floridiansare profiled, picked for full bodyfondlings everyone knows Floridais the Axis of Oranges Loudspeakers announce All passengers navelsmust be covered or checked in baggage.Congress is considering mandatorynavelectomies.Orange Alert paranoia eats awayat the nation like a very hungry caterpillar The Mexicans, known agents of oranges,are scared taking to the streets, picketing,fighting for naranjas as if they were their own corazones. They don t understand We don t fly, they say If we want to travelwe borrow Tia Silvi s minivan. Pamphlets flutter from the skytelling how to tellif someone s a terrorist They tell jokeswith punch lines like Orange you glad I didn t say bananaWomen with B cups, men with certain sized crotches, even those withman boobs, are squeezed, bobbled in searchof forbidden fruits questionedabout stowed away pomelos, tangelos,sun kissed explosive devices,quarters of tart dynamite Orchards are napalmed.Homeland Security says, Convert them all to parking lots Go, men Go We re out for blood oranges. Orange Aide to Third World fruit standswas canceled.The U.N expungedthe Oranges for Oil campaign.It doesn t stop there patriot posses mow down highway cones,the DOT revolted and wrecked their fleetsof clementine colored trucks,school crossing guards are mauled in their tangy vests beaten with Walk signsby packs of anti mandarin kindergarteners.O.J Simpson s in jail Tropicana sold out to V8.Orange County is a mere smudgein the West Coast sky Halloween was banned Jehovah s Witnesses shake their headssaying, We told you so.In the haze of this early winter,blue flames engulf the cities.Wait what s that you say We ve been bumped to red alert But that s like apples and oranges Orange Alert pg 91 This is one of my favourite all time poetry collections, one I ve read many times and often share poems from it with students I love how Diaz combines the mythic with the sharp realities of her Mojave family life uncomfortable but luxurious, vibrant and tragic, erotic and linguistically baroque If I could give it ten stars I would I can t wait for her next book and have seen samples published in various magazines that promise it will be even better. Such a strong debut This is one of my favorites in my month of poetry reads This book has stayed with me in the days since I read it, and it begs for a re read. I have only three words READ THIS BOOK. Sharp, angry poems with a fine eye toward metaphor and repetition Part II, which deals primarily with her brother s struggles with drug addition, was particularly brutal At times I felt like the book might have benefited from a smaller selection of poems, since so many retread the same thematic territory but there s no specific poem I would have cut, and perhaps that s just my own discomfort with the subject matter speaking Part III, which leans toward lesbian love poetry, was an unexpected treat after that Some passages that particularly resonated When My Brother Was an Aztec My parents gatheredwhat he d left of their bodies, trying to stand within legs,trying to defend his blows with missing arms, searching for their fingersto pray A Woman with No Legs Told me to keep my eyes open for the white man named Diabetes who is outthere somewhere carrying her legs in red biohazard bags tuckedunder his arms Asks me to rub her legs which aren t there so Ipretend by pressing my hands into the empty sheets at the foot ofher bed Feels like she s lost part of her memory the part the legs knewbest like earth Her missing kneecaps are bright bones caught in my throat Reservation Mary Just the other day, at a party on first beach, someone askedif she still had that 3 point touch, if she wished she still played ball,and she answered that she wished a lot of things,but what she wished for most at that minute was that she could turnthe entire Colorado River into E J Ripple she went on a beer run instead,and as she made her way over the bumpy back roads along the river,that smooth faced baby in the backseat cried out for something Cloud Watching A tongue will wrestle its mouth to death and lose language is a cemetery The Last Mojave Indian Barbie worst of all, Mojave Barbie couldn t find a single soft spot onher body to inject her insulin It had taken years of court cases,litigation, letters from tribal council members, testimonials fromCHR nurses, and a few diabetic comas just to receive permission tobuy the never released hypodermic needle accessory kit beforethat, she d bought most on the Japanese black market Matteldidn t like toying around with the possibility of a Junkie Barbie Prayers or Oubliettes The world has tired of tears.We weep owls now They live longer.They know their way in the dark As a Consequence of My Brother Stealing All the Lightbulbs when I visit, I hate searching for the door usuallymy brother s boot print on my dad s ribs, once it wasa hole in my mom s chest that changed her into a sad guitarfor three years these are like exits than doors.They are difficult to get through I Watch Her Eat the Apple She twists the stem, pulls itlike the pin of a grenade, and I just knowsomewhere someone is sitting alone on a porch,bruised, opened up to their wet white ribs, riddled by her teeth lucky. When My Brother Was an Aztec is a debut poetry collection The poems are vivid with language, family history, cultural struggle, and struggles in the body Before I wrote this review, I spent almost an hour watching Natalie perform her poems and talk about her poems and life on YouTube It was interesting to hear her talk about her work to help her people retain the Mojave language, and her family s reactions to her poems She writes about her brother s meth addiction in particular, and its effect on her family and community.Some of my favorites When My Brother Was an Aztec he lived in our basement and sacrificed my parentsevery morning Why I Hate RaisinsThe Red Blues possibly the best menstruation poem ever Tortilla Smoke A Genesis Some tortillas wandered the dry groundlike bright tribes As a Consequence of My Brother Stealing All the Lightbulbs we are always digging each other out from an intimatesort of rubble When the Beloved Asks, What Would You Do If You Woke Up and I Was a Shark A book so lush it left me drunk Serious, painful poems about the narrator s relationship with her drug addicted brother Poems of passion and longing Poems riffing off works by Lorca and Rimbaud A clever commentary on our paranoid post 9 11 world in which oranges become the new vehicles of evil The power of red, the sensual attraction of apples The knots of family love.These poems contain so much and examine with great intensity love that sometimes borders on hate, on feelings that seem to great for a human to contain.Fabulous work.