BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
Christine Stoddard’s poetry collection, Water for the Cactus Woman (Spuytenduyvil, 2018) is a meditation on family, the body, and navigating a bi-cultural map of memories. The most looming figure in the poems is the speaker’s dead grandmother, who appears in the most mundane of places, bringing dread to the speaker. In “The Cactus Centerpiece”, the ghost provokes jealousy and a cactus shapeshifts from protective shield to a portal for the dead, “We never named the cactus/ or the petite panther, / even though we named/everything, good or bad.”
The fragmented nature of Latinidad is set against a backdrop of the surreal, making the speaker’s jealousy of her dead the most provocative thread in the collection. This anguish feels unnerving in its honesty. While the speaker criticizes the racism of her white grandfather, she expresses both a disdain and visceral longing to have her grandmother as flesh and mentor. Her grandmother is only made tangible through the relics of the domestic and this creates a beautiful tension that spans the book.
The longing for sisterhood becomes a new heartbreak for the speaker as the book progresses. In “Scallop Sister” she says, “I realized that/ they could not feed her either/ and she would grow up/ stinking of roach spray.” There is the hushed and frightening thought that the ghosts of womanhood may too much to bear or perhaps the speaker’s greatest power.
Monique Quintana is an Associate Editor at Luna Luna Magazine and a pop culture contributor at Clash Media Her work has appeared in Winter Tangerine, Queen Mob's Tea House, Huizache, The Acentos Review, Dream Pop, and Grimoire, among other publications. Her novella, Cenote City is forthcoming from Clash Books in March, 2019.