Posted by Theresa J. Beckhusen
Written by Mirna Palacio Ornelas
When I finish reading something, I usually talk about the piece for days. The thing is, though, Juan Carlos Reyes’ “In the House of Flying Words” in Used Furniture Review has left me at a loss of, well, words. He’s taken them all and carefully sculpted a dizzying image that leeches the air from your lungs. I was only left with “holy shit.”
It starts out with a pretty gruesome description of what words can and will do to your infant daughter, attacking her in her cradle until there’s only a little skeleton with a bib left. That’s the entire first paragraph. Reyes makes words out to be these living things, while still referring to them in a metaphorical sense. These words are very much a real threat to the sleeping baby, something that will physically harm her when given the chance. They lie in the shadows, waiting for their chance to pounce. They plan their attacks, and throw themselves at the house to get to the sleeping child. That being said, the flying words in this piece are still only words. How much can words possibly hurt, right?
Reyes continues to use words in this sense for the rest of the piece, coming back time and again to demonstrate how much they will mutilate your daughter throughout her life.
“They’re coming as the always do, they arrive, and you will do everything to protect her but they will leave a mark.”
Aside from the vast vocabulary Reyes uses, his sentences also have the effect that is often seen in poetry. It’s essentially a poem, but it’s not a poem. He blends his phrases together, stretching the sentences to just below their breaking points in order to make them house raw emotions. The words meld into each other, and you don’t realize how the words weigh against your sternum until you see that period at the end.
“You watch her sleep, the night passing quickly and measuring evening and words still unborn, those moons carrying slurs suggestions and ridicules, all those jabbing words looming huddled down street, primed by the garden, crowding parking spaces like impending tanks on the night of shattered glass.”
All fancy words and form aside, Reyes uses this piece to reach the bone-biting truth. Words do hurt. And they’re not something you can control, not like physical violence. We have no defense against words, no matter how hard we try. We have to stand by as words hurt our loved ones, or worse yet, while they distance themselves.
Reyes’ grammatically incorrect sentences work for the humanity of the piece, but they also make it hard for the reader keep up. It might be a minor issue, but it is also the only one. Even then, it can be easily solved by reading the piece out loud. Reyes’ words anchor themselves in your gut, leaving your head light from panic, and making it more than worth the trouble.
The distanced tone in this piece is often found in his other pieces. Reyes keeps readers on edge with this creepy little trick. The gruesome details that he embeds in them help achieve that ambiance as well. There’s always an off-putting event amidst a seemingly normal setting; this is almost a branch of magical realism. Almost.
Mirna Palacio Ornelas is a Vouched Indy intern and is currently a junior at the University of Indianapolis. She’s a poetry writer that dabbles in the publishing world. Mirna spends most of her time in the dark with Captain America looping in the background on the lowest volume and light settings while collecting boxes of steakhouse dinner rolls on her desk.