Book Review | Another Death Bed by Jasmine Maldonado Dillavou

Another Death Bed by Jasmine Nicole Maldonado Dillavou
A review by Chris Bullock

“a moment of pause with things that matter” 

Jasmine Nicole Maldonado Dillavou

Another Death Bed (but this one is more comfortable, and the sheets just came out of the dryer)

During my time “studying” in China, I learned to see art not as much a hustle and grind, but rather as way of being. While taking an introductory Mandarin class, most classmates said they were pursuing business and politics, which only elicited a nod from the teacher, a middle-aged guy from Shanghai. When I said I enjoyed art, he gave a pause and a grin, then said an artist is blessed because an artist is never bored. From others there I got the same impression, a few said they wanted to be friends with an artist because an artist thinks differently than most, offering refreshing if unpredictable conversation. I had a local Chinese musician buddy who offered me drugs, guns, and often spoke his mind. When I said I was studying education, he interrupted me to say “Chris, you are not teacher. You a fucking artist.”

Artists, poets, and other rabble often share with us the process of discovering themselves and the world, and Another Death Bed by Jasmine Nicole Maldonado Dillavou, or Jasmine, offers that insight of a sitting in her brain as life unfolds. She rummages through the closet for an old stackable chair and offers us a seat in her mind, and she points out things which are as new to her as to you. You might expect to read a few pieces and set the book down, but time has suddenly passed and you have finished the book and wondering if there is something you missed. These are notes in the head of a creative, and as she puts it “a moment of pause with things that matter.”

I had first made her acquaintance upon returning from China to Colorado Springs, and attending a monthly discussion salon put on by Non Book Club Book Club. I had lived in the Springs and never found it repressive or backwards, rather I had come upon the same inspiration that has made it attractive to artists since the Broadmoor School. It was a bohemian life, piecing together rent how I could, playing concerts, going on tour, attending poetry readings, wandering art galleries and alley ways. In contrast to Denver, where quite a few were on hustle and grind mode and unwilling to open up for fear you might plagiarize and profit, in the Springs I found a tight knit and relaxed misfit milieu wherein just seeing differently made you different. Similar to my time in China. Fucking artists. 

A few things had changed since my time away, however. All these creative students and faculty from UCCS were not only putting on events, but also inviting you out to see it. Living downtown, meeting up just to chat about what we are up to. Trying out unusual ideas, without even a business plan or a merchandise table. It is true what Denver diehards might say, the Springs could be boring, but it also encouraged you to do something to fill the boredom, even if as in her case, “riding a Lime Scooter the wrong way down Bijou Street with a big black hat on.”

This collection is the writer discovering her mind as it emerges, and sharing it with you. An invitation to sit in her head on an extra chair pulled from the storage closet, a place which is rough around the edges and unaccustomed to guests, but will make do if you show up. A peek into Tejon Street bars, rubbing elbows with the most normal people imaginable, as an artist with other oddballs making things happen in warehouses, restaurants, bookstores, parking lots, on the street, wherever there is an emptiness screaming to be borrowed and occupied temporarily. Art for art’s sake, after which the observer can’t point out any details but just feels like something invisible has changed. 

One moment it is “the girl whose thighs don’t touch leaves the bathroom in front of me at the punk show” and the next is finding graffiti in the bar that says “I want to be dead with my dad”. One moment it is living your Boricua being and all the cultural weight and expectations, the next you are really just an artist and you are your “own greatest fear,” writing down your mind as you uncover it. Even after the tour is done, I am still in the chair on a dusty studio floor, and one of the legs of the chair is off-balance. But instead of complaining about it, I just rock a little, for art’s sake.

To grab a seat of your own, you can pick up the book in Colorado Springs at True North Art Gallery, Garfield Gallery, or Westside Stories. Or you can contact her on IG @jasminrunswithscissors or Jasminedillavou.com and if you are feeling extra boring, try Amazon.

About the Reviewer

Tall City (Chris Bullock) was born and got bigger on Long Island, New York. He did a few things then moved to Colorado Springs after trying to study in Paris. He did a few things there too, then moved to Denver, where he went back to school for foreign language. A couple of years on scholarship in China, and he is back in Denver. 

Book Review | without water by Lawrence Mack

Hugging the hurt: without water by Lawrence Mack
A review by Chris Bullock

“bravery is hugging the hurt you know will come” 

Lawrence Mack

Several lines stood out to me while reading without water by Lawrence Mack, but this seemed to encapsulate not only the poetry but the whole approach to writing and living. Lawrence’s poetry is not only hugging the hurt, but anticipating the hurt, welcoming the hurt, and dancing with the hurt, finally making the hurt feel at home as a guest or part of the family, with some tea set out on the table. It is a book of poetry both deeply personal on an emotional level, but also as approachable and light as two strangers making small talk in the bar.

I had known Lawrence mostly through dance, as a frequent guest to several events around town, as someone who may study dance but still also enjoys dance. I had no idea he was a poet, but some of the best poets out there have developed lives which in turn inform their writing, like a written mirror held to life, and without water is not only a mirror, but a moving mirror, as if the surface of the bay, on which we float, until we wash ashore at the end. 

These poems have a very casual air, recommended for any aficionado of Frank o’Hara and the New York School. Frank narrated his day with minor inconveniences and pleasures until learning that Billie Holiday had died, writing about the small everyday things in a way that underlines both their simplicity and importance. Tributes to friendships and relationships as important elements of life, with the brevity and wit of social interactions, wherein we let slip a penetrating insight between remarks about the weather. 

Small talk hints at bigger things, or small talk avoids bigger things, but why do we need to address bigger things? Agnostics believe that the mind of man could not possibly comprehend the mind of God, so why try? Live how you are, who you are, when you are, with others or alone. It is what it is. We construct an independent image in the mirror, but we are also our past, with or without a family environment. The made could not possibly comprehend the maker, so don’t worry about it.

Probably the one that stuck in my mind after reading was “at least there are snacks”, picking up as a casket is lowered, and ending with the little things hinting at the big things “Pops says don’t forget the sandwiches in the trunk / Mom curses—she wouldn’t have bought so many / if she’d known so few / would show up”

This book really is a dance in stepping from pain to redemption to dry wit to exhaustion to joy within a single page, but also with the sense it was no big deal, just a dance, so lighten up if you can. Part of the environment is a newfound sobriety and understanding that sobriety can be the ultimate high, and taking please in noticing everything with a clear mind, and making the conscious choice to welcome the hurt that underlies any addiction. The hurt re emerges, the hurt approaches you, the hurt seems frightening, but it is also part of you, it is you. Once you accept it, you hug the hurt, dance with it, even welcome it into your life. And after any big welcome, there is small talk, topic to topic, and without water is a book of small talk which not only welcomes you and makes you comfortable, but also honors the struggle we may have endured to reach such nonchalant comfort. 

How do you get a copy of a book if the poet is always out dancing awake and asleep? I would try an email to lawrencewritespoems@gmail.com and he will get to it when the music stops.

About the Reviewer

Tall City (Chris Bullock) was born and got bigger on Long Island, New York. He did a few things then moved to Colorado Springs after trying to study in Paris. He did a few things there too, then moved to Denver, where he went back to school for foreign language. A couple of years on scholarship in China, and he is back in Denver. 

glad god said i’m allowed to be alive | Tall City

Image: Aditya Vyas

‘glad god said i’m allowed to be alive’ he said to whomever was listening,
sang a tiny song to praise god and included everyone in the room
buildings across the street bathed his armchair in rainbow neon
the combined aura of different advertisements at different distances
he sang a praise song to combat difficult feelings
the neighbor’s little girl asked him not to die until he got older
he promised not to die until he got older
so when she dies, everyone would be there to meet her in heaven
to walk her to her room

he washed dishes and wondered
if they were still rolling dice down the street,
he wiped down dishes and wondered
if all the stores were open,
he found his armchair was a neon tinted throne
his shadow on the floor held a stairway
he knew if he went down into the shadow stairway
he could keep going down forever
he wanted to go up instead
forever
but there was no staircase in the ceiling, not now
god said it was not his time to go yet
god said he was allowed to stay alive

there were just moths there, studying the lightbulb
there were just moths on the ceiling
with crushes on the lightbulb
he was sure the ceiling wouldn’t open until death
he promised her he wouldn’t die yet
she wanted to die now so she could see grandma
he assured her that grandma would still be there
he told her to live a life, find a man, have kids, grow old
she didn’t listen she was afraid of going outside
when she went to bed there wasn’t any music
just her voice improvising praise songs
to combat difficult feelings
he fell asleep before her

didn’t dream of anything at all
every night is a strange mystery
still he said ‘glad god said i’m allowed to be alive’
when he prayed at church we caught his cheating,
opening his eyes a crack to copy our wishes
opening his eyes a crack to check on his own shadow
to make sure there wasn’t a stairway there
to make sure the trapdoor was closed
so he wouldn’t fall into his shadow
and leave the sanctuary suddenly

the streetcorner crowded
the stores still open
the street goes past the bridge
but there it is just factories and warehouses
nobody there are night except those who don’t know what’s going on
the people who stand around like ghosts and
disappear when you turn your head to look

Tall City (Chris Bullock) was born and got bigger on Long Island, New York. He did a few things then moved to Colorado Springs after trying to study in Paris. He did a few things there too, then moved to Denver, where he went back to school for foreign language. A couple of years on scholarship in China, and he is back in Denver.