‘Mojave in July’ Angela M. Brommel
Tolsun Books www.tolsunbooks.com
‘Mojave in July’ is a celebration of the women who want to make something of their lives but only have their wit and beauty to do so. The contemporary poems mostly explore American society in the earlier half of the last century when women’s education and opportunities were curtailed. This is illustrated in ‘Chorus Girl’ dedicated to the poet’s great-grandmother Rovana DeBorde (1900-1954),
‘She was disowned for trying too much. She tried college.
She tried modeling at the art school, wartime spot welding,
tutoring and afterschool arts. She tried marriage and babies.
I was the co-ed who instigated semi-nude cartwheels
in moonlit parks, an October jump into a library’s
fountain—and a few other public fountains and pools. Most likely
to kiss some boy with a bad ID who said he was nearly
an astronaut. Who missed her “Movement for The Actor” final
while restlessly losing her underwear in Hebron, Nebraska
during a snow storm. I tried.
I tried to start over by moving to a city full of show girls.’
Rovana DeBorde sounds like someone making the best of whatever life threw at her, someone who tried to forge her own path rather than get sucked into the traditional roles of wife and mother. A woman with stories and character. A person you’d like to meet and get her to tell those stories, but she’s more likely to be too busy living to stop and tell all.
Catullus 50 invokes the grief after pleasure and warns that Nemesis is a ‘violent goddess’ with the warning ‘you will beware of offending her’, in Angela Brommel’s poem, ‘Catullus #50 Meets Godard’s Contempt’
‘She is feral beneath so much cotton.
Moonlight. If daylight was near
with a chance just to speak with him.
Food ceases to taste good alone.
There is no solace in sleeping alone.
There is a deadness that rises as she reclines
on the sofa to write a poem for him.
There is a joy in suffering so deeply.’
His inability to see her as more than someone to sleep with, his failure to connect with her and receive the poem she’s about to write leaves him lonely despite being in company. He would rather maintain his defences than open up and become vulnerable. She seems oblivious to this, perhaps mistaking nightly passion for love and gifts as a substitute for sharing. As a relationship, this is doomed: there’s no intimacy. This theme is picked up in ‘Lap Dance’
‘The hair flip. The you-can’t-do-anything
-more-than-buy-me-drinks-look. The beautiful
and ugly space of desire is four miles long.
Just the good smell of vanilla and Xanadu
rolls through the air. But god
how I love the neon lights. No more
restless nights with no one else awake. Vegas gives
you color after so many drab winters.
Cold and empty is the worst way to go.
Plutonium or Platinum Blonde.’
Again, there’s no intimacy, just the illustion of it. But nonetheless, the girls who don’t get the best tips are the ones who appear metallic blonde: they may be great to look at but there’s no depth, no warmth, no sense that in a different place connection might be possible.
The limitations placed on women are outlined in sharp focus in ‘Betty Jane Writes Home to Mary Margaret’, which starts, ‘All that fussing, yards and yards of white cotton and lace,/ like we hadn’t done it in the backseat of his car the minute/ that ring hit my finger. Then I said to him,/ I’ve never done this before’ because women were supposed to be chaste but men lauded for experience, even it’s never been explained how men get that experience if women are chaste. Their honeymoon,
‘For six weeks I swam at the pool,
drank little drinks beneath the cottonwoods
while he stayed who knows where.
Let me do this one last thing for you, I said.
I hated Home Ec. Who wants to sew or iron?
I loosened every goddamn button and hem on his clothes.
Just so he’d remember me.’
So, the manic pixie dream girl reminds her ex-husband that she wasn’t an ideal to make him whole, she was a whole living person and he’s missed out. This perception of women as some ideal rather than human continues in ‘Wonder Woman at the Grocery’,
‘I watched her reading labels.
I wondered if Steve ever did the shopping. I wondered
if Superman ever did the shopping. But most of all I wondered
what’s so wonderful about being Wonder Woman.’
No one ever asks a working man about childcare or combining work with household duties.
‘How to Write a Desert Love Poem’ is dedicated to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area which dismisses the idea of a movie as a first date in favour of a nature trail,
‘There is only the sound of wind
moving through brush, sunlight
in red rocks, the last of the water.
You have always loved the outdoors
because only after exhaustion can you hear your heart.’
Interspersed among the poems is a character called Miss Atomic, in ‘Miss Atomic at Home’ one of the ‘smart bombs, cool blondes, Hollywood good girls’
‘A girl who does it for her country. God, country, family
and the atomic
cocktail. The kind of girl who knows just when to drop her dress
to distract you with her bathing-suit beauty. She’s got timing.
When she throws her arms up in the air all of Mercury takes cover:
White Cloud & Fear’
The title poem is the final poem,
‘Let the heat draw out everything unneeded.
Let it put you to bed midday.
Let it make you new.’
‘Mojave in July’ is a celebration of Nevada, both its desert wildlife and glossy, buzzing nightlife though the eyes of women who reject stereotypes and aren’t afraid of hard work. Women with depth and warmth who, if minded, will entertain and engage you. The ones who know the desert lurks behind the glitz and glamour and aren’t afraid to keep it real. Angela Brommel has created an engaging collection that fizzes with energy.