Gabriela Jaugegui, Controlled Decay
Publisher: Black Goat
2008, 136 pages, paperback, $15.95

in Controlled Decay, Mexican native Gabriela Jauregui explores, as the title suggests, imagistic variations on deterioration. While her poems carry the reader from dancehalls to Ciudad Juarez to Morocco to Japanese restaurants, and inhabit the lives of Benito Juarez, Heinrich von Kleist, Nadezhda Mandelstam and leaders of the Zapatistas, one thing that persists in these poems is the trope of decay. The recurrence of this image is apparent from the collection’s epigraph, taken from Edward J. Gaines’ Of Love and Dust: “… leaves on top of leaves on top of leaves; leaves that weren’t anymore but had turned back to dust.”

For Jauregui, decay is predicated upon layering: layers of language and icon, layers of the elemental, layers of “dead bodies upon bodies upon bodies.” Sections titled “Dust,” “Bone,” “Fat,” “Enamel,” and “Nail” reiterate this notion and explore the ambiguous possibilities of language with a firm lyrical sensibility. Jauregui has an impressive and fresh ear for the English language, one rarely found in monolingual speakers. In “Collective,” a trip through the Mexico City subway system, Jauregui’s multilingual lens presents for the reader an ostranenie of Mexican-Spanish and American-English vernacular (bracketed terms appear as subway signs in the collection):

on to [Tlatelolco] is sad tower an A gaping architecture and a

gash in the sky but under water [camarones] is a station on the
orange line: a shrimp, humped, antennae feeling outward
camaronear to shrimp somebody on the metro is to stick your dick next
to their ass not shrimping as in john waters sucking toes camarones,

camaronear, coctelito de camar&oacuten get out at the [Merced] stop
on the pink line the mercy, merced market marchante, you buy?
anything a shrimp cocktail a cactus perfectly cooked out of sliminess
unlike the guy in the too-full metro

While Jauregui reifies a wonderment for language, her recurring use of icon and simple sketches throughout the collection reminds the reader that attempts to signify are futile: one who speaks in more than one code knows the failure of each. As Terrance Hayes states in the introduction, “our sense of control pushes against a sense of impending and constant decay.”

-Jared Walls