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Carbó, Nick.  Andalusian Dawn.  Cincinnati, OH:  Cherry Grove Collections, 2004. ISBN:  1-9323-3944-2.  $16.  


It would be difficult for any poet to spend time in Andalusia and not feel the influence of that great Andalusian poet murdered by Franco’s Fascists in the Spanish Civil War:  Federico García Lorca. 

Lorca looms over Nick Carbó’s Andalusian Dawn though he is only overtly present in one of the poems:  “Translating Lorca in Andalusia.”  This poem, in the first section of the book, The Evening's Silver in Andalusia, lets us know in no uncertain terms that certain things, some feelings, cannot be translated because they are so firmly located in place and culture:  Take the word salitre and  /  under blue rocks for its true meaning, Carbó tells us in the first lines of the poem.  To find  la luz de la cañavera  / go to the dry riverbed towards nightfall / and lay still for an hour. We may know Spanish. We may find the literal meanings of the words in Spanish dictionaries. We can contemplate the residue of salt, the light, but…what do these things mean to the people who grow up in that area, in that place.  What does Federico mean by the words? What connotations do these things have for him?  In Carbó’s poems it is the lack of connotation, the coming close to meaning that builds approaches to meaning that cannot quite be reached.

Essentially, Nick Carbó in this and in other books that are building a visible structure of wit and excellence, uses a scalpel to cut into meaning and, when that cut has been made, no real meaning can be found.  While Carbó’s poetry is, essentially, serious, his method is comedic.  His is, sometimes not always, a Chaplinesque poetry spiced with the kind of ribald humor even Chaplin could not contemplate in his time.  I “pelos,” from the SONGS OF ANCIENT ARAB ANDALUSIA section of the book, Carbó tells a delightfully ribald story Irving could not have told in his Tales from the Alhambra :

I have white rabbits running around
my dreams at night.  See the streaks
they leave on my temples?  You!  You put
them there so I would never forget
the lines of your face as you bent
to lick my belly button.

In “Speech Impediments, in the final section of the book, Carbó lets his comedic imagination run riot with double entendres based upon the jargon of speech therapists:  “”You must warn me,” she said / as she manipulated the millibars.  //  He was engulfed by the heat / of her cardamom mouth, her amplitude, / her guttural declensions.”

And yet Andalusian Dawn is more than comic verse with serious intent.  At times the beauty in the lines of some of the love poems shine out like the Andalusian dawn and the moon light  Carbó invokes in “Amor Con Agua”:

As we walk down the river bed of Rio de Aguas,
I think of basket-weaving whispers around
your all-night hips.  And now,

that the moon is almost full, I wonder if the tiny
bits of silver in the sand will catch
that midnight Moorish light.

Andalusian Dawn builds on several poetry collections Nick Carbó has written, including El Grupo MacDonald’s, Secret Asian Man and Chinese, Japanese, What Are These? in developing a poetics that blends sometimes slapstick humor with serious intent.  His work deserves more attention.