Professor Pedro Ponce’s recent collection, Alien Autopsy (Cow Heavy Books, 55 pages) is a departure from his most previous work Superstitions of Apartment Life (Burnside Review Press, 2008), but the imaginative, elegant, if not sweetly written observations one finds time after time in Ponce’s work have not been sacrificed. The newest collection treads more heavily into realism and more lightly into the magical-realism that often echoes in his short work.
In Autopsy, we are given greater glimpse into life through the eyes of childhood revisited. Listening to the wistful voice, sentimental at times, we are willing to read on through Ponce’s absolute inquiry into interaction and communication, into what is seen and what is understood. The author is not interested in what is said, but rather, what has gone unsaid, what has been felt.
From short “Revenant”:
My host was the friend of a friend. Goddess was written in glitter across her shirt. As she mugged suggestively, bits of her bosom flaked into my beer…Our hilarity was muted by a sudden gust of wind. Lamps flickered, then failed altogether. Someone tried coaxing a flame from his lighter. In the intermittent dark, I could have been anywhere; the streets outside were indistinguishable from the starless sky, the invisible walls, the glasses poised blindly in front of us.
From the crash and spatter of rain, the sift of bare legs emerged behind me. Lightning illuminated the edge of my pillow, casing your hair in dark tendrils against the wall.
Are you awake? you asked.
Yes, I said. Another crash. The rain fell harder.
I felt your arm thread around my stomach. Are you scared?
No, I said.
A flash. A long silence.
Maybe, I said.
The lights returned. The party celebrated with a toast before picking up from where the storm had left us.
What Ponce is often able to do so well, is to transcend time and place, from narrator into internal dialogue. We are told, he tells us, he prepares us, he writes, “I could have been anywhere.” We are then brought into other light, other rooms. While lightning strikes, we are with our narrator in thought elsewhere, in a bedroom, with someone else. While lightning strikes, we are in the same moment, at the party, on a couch, dark tendrils shadowed against two walls in two places, only in one place. When the lights return, we are brought back to the present moment, we return to one space. Perhaps in both cases the “you” is the same you for our author, the moment our author has rendered for us a remarkable sensation; a quiet split in present thought and past reflection.
Alien Autopsy at its core, is a rather lonely work, I think. There is a loneliness in that, in every situation our narrator is entirely surrounded by others, and in every situation, he can only see them from his perspective, his eyes, and through an investigatory, if not skeptical and perhaps paranoid, filter. Our author gives us a narrator who thinks and feels deeply. As in the case of “The Illustrated Woman,” our narrator’s girlfriend has come to visit him, and surprises him with a tattoo. “I’ve always wanted a tattoo,” She tells him. Ponce writes, “Later, I couldn’t sleep. I got out of bed and sat by the window watching her legs kick free of the sheets.”
-Nicolle Elizabeth, author of Read This Sh*t Out Loud (forthcoming).
You’re not fooling anyone, she says. Everyone knows it’s you. You could be writing about detectives or haunted ships or strange coincidences. But it’s always about you. And I’m always the missing clue, the devouring ocean, the shadow at the end of an empty street. Why do you make me the monster? You only give your side, never mine. The world is beautiful and you’re the picture of innocence until I come along and hurt you or abandon you and leave you to stew in a state of lyrical paralysis. You think you’re being clever and sophisticated. But you’re just being childish and sad. I’m not a monster. I’m a real person. Real people change. I’ve moved on. You haven’t. You can’t have what you think you want, so you’ve made me into something you can manipulate and cling to and use to keep your feeble hopes alive.
You’re wrong, I said. As a monster, you’re easier to kill