Canticle of Idols


Mahogany maple syrup
runs in spider web lines.

My father never uses the stuff, he
eats pancakes, powdered, butter moist.

When I was a child, he knew more of straightness. Lines and razors were friends.

One night he tried to die by his hand. A girl
jumped before he walked to the ledge.

Her mangled body wore the rails like a girdle,
her limbs so thin they became a blood putty. Angel,

her name. They had to lift the train to take her out.

On Canticle of Idols, 2008, Wordtech Communications

There is something of Eden adhering to any first book. Raina León brings us lyric reports from a place where Adam the name-giver meets Juana la Loca. "what's your name / the ones who know are dead" Readers can only hope that she is able to keep some of that moist earth visible around her roots. She'll need it. We'll need it. "Sculptors chisled my feet / on the Devil's neck" she writes. That would be the devil we know. What we don't yet know, she just might help us learn.”

— A.L. Nielsen, first winner of the Larry Neal Award and author of Heat Strings and Reading Race

“Here is the work of a poet who possesses the graceful sensuality of dusk & the unflinching eye of the butcher. One senses here, that León is committed to pulling back the red curtains of our historical, familial, cultural mythologies, & rendering what is found there into deep song. The result is a landscape of lyrical acuity fueled by a myriad of languages, characters, & centers. These poems give us the voice of The Marys, the sister, abuela 'Buela, the lovers. In León, you have an Orpheic poet who dives into the underworld of every thing--& comes back with the news.”

— Aracelis Girmay, author of Teeth and Kingdom Animalia

“What wonderful ideas and moods a keen, artistic observer provides. Raina León writes with a sense of grace and awareness of details that magnifies with elegant clarity. Through the lens of her verses, those seemingly small things appear larger, more pronounced; here, what was distant becomes close, closer. Hers is a poetic voice that deserves our attention.”

— Howard Rambsy II, professor and literary critic, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

© Raina J. León 2017