[03/15/24] Rico, Monica: Pinion
Four Way Books, paperback
Publication Date: March 15, 2024
Publisher Marketing: "I / step into the kitchen because I can / no longer smell the lilac / bush my father cut down," Monica Rico writes in the opening poem of her astonishing debut collection. Deeply invested in unearthing women's identity from a patriarchal family structure, these pages catalog life beside loss, the truth of cruelty accompanied by a defiant vitality. Here, where the declaration "I can" is modified to "I can / no longer," Rico untangles the paradox of love, how a persistent absence keeps the missing object present, asserting itself through grief and memory; the scent of lilac lingers precisely because we cannot smell it anymore. The dual meaning of "pinion" scaffolds this collection, which considers Rico's family and their experiences in the context of her grandparents' immigration to the USA from México, American racial capitalism, and the mass migration catalyzed and necessitated by Western colonialism. "Pinion" in noun form refers to a bird's outer flight feathers; in verb form, it means to bind or sever this part of the wing to hinder flight. Bound up in this word, then, is a thing and its destruction -- a possibility and a thwarted hope side by side. Rico creates her own motifs to write a representative genealogy, approaching her family as an ornithologist: across poems, her grandfather (who worked at General Motors) appears as an owl, her grandmother figures as a robin, and the American project shows up in the eagle's warped beak and surveilling eye. A field work of restoration, these poems compose a personal history and a deconstruction of global capitalism as articulated through an encyclopedia of birds. From the chaos of our flawed world, Rico salvages an enduring hope, reminding us that "a broken / song like an ugly duckling isn't ugly / but unique, and stands out like the flightless / dodo who trusts because it is too awful not to."