by Lucas De Lima
Reviewed by Eric Sneathen
Lucas De Lima’s Wet Land pulses with the enviably ludicrous energy and subversive nuttiness of queer underground filmmaking’s golden age. Wet Land is the kind of maximal manifesto worthy of Jack Smith, John Waters or the Kuchar brothers, calling out a generation never as “post”—post-racial, post-feminist, post-AIDS—as it may claim to be.
De Lima sets out his poetic fantasy, writ large in absurdity, to eschew any pretenses of a measured, tempered mourning. With bravura flourish, akin to Divine eating dog shit at the end of Pink Flamingos, De Lima begins his book: “These poems mythify the alligator attack that killed my dearest friend in 2006. To write this book—to inscribe myself into its bloodstained ecology—I have to become a bird.” And so De Lima’s poems flit out, caught in an exchange between an elegant avian restlessness and the brutal carnivorousness of an alligator: “I ROSE WITH A MANGLED THROAT, I ROSE WITH THORNS PLANTED DEEP / INSIDE ME. / I COULD BARELY WHISPER ‘JUST DISSOLVE ME INTO AIRBORNE LIFE’.” Confrontational and shamanic, each poem is set in capital letters as De Lima explains, “like rows of teeth,” with each tooth written as a “monument to self-destruction.”
In the book’s preface, De Lima makes the connection between the alligator and HIV explicit. He quotes recent research: “After discovering that the alligator’s blood is so potent it can destroy HIV, I begin to understand our alliance. Like the Marys—the ACT UP affinity group of the sick, the living, and those who had already died of AIDS—my allies and I spill into each other.” De Lima transforms an eternal entanglement of the bird and the alligator into an urgent allegory of the body, destroyed and enlightened by a loss greater than itself.
Eric Sneathen lives in Santa Cruz, California, where he is studying for his PhD in Literature. His reviews have been published by Small Press Distribution and Tripwire, and his poetry has been published by Mondo Bummer, The Equalizer, and Faggot Journal.