The ego is a powerful and dangerous thing. Consumers of art often want to directly associate a piece of writing with the person who created it, and often they're correct to do so. Much of American poetry has had a strong confessional bent for a couple of centuries now, and plenty of poets have exploited that aspect of the work, sometimes to their detriment.
Nandi Comer, on the other hand, makes anonymity an art. She is a close observer, layering details of the scenes she creates with tenderness and care. Reading a poem by Comer makes me feel as though I'm staring at a faded snapshot that gradually invades my mind, until I feel myself to be by her side, watching life unfold. By muting her own presence in her poems, Comer helps her reader to be similarly open to a larger view of humanity. Read this woman. Watch for her. She'll take you places you've never been and make them feel like home.
How Not to Lose the Mask: Mil Mascaras Showers after a Match
Masked wrestlers will go pretty far to avoid being
` identified and seen without their mask by fans.
-Rey Mysterio, Behind the Mask
Through the locker room,
past the champion posters, past
the black and white TV monitor,
in the last shower stall,
Mil Mascaras feels
the weight of his arms
The tenderness of biceps, the pull
of hamstrings, each sore muscle
cooled by a cement bench.
While other fighters vacate
the locker room, he waits
for the shower to warm.
He loosens each tight loop
laced up his white boot,
wonders how many blows
his back has taken, how many
slaps across his chest. Still
ringside, clusters of boys grip
tattered autographs and wait
for a glimpse of eyebrow,
for the faintest ridge of nose.
Mil Mascaras slips each leg
out of spandex, cuts tape
There are better times to leave
the embroidered M boxed
at home: movie theaters,
weddings grocery shopping. One time
while a cashier dragged his cans
and bottles across a beeping scanner,
he studied her bored mouth,
how her brow collected
in the middle of her head
as he faced her. She barely looked
in his direction.
Water puddles at the drain.
He steps under the trickling tap.
Lukewarm spray wets his threaded cheek,
runs over each stud.
His eyelets upturned accept the shower
No. She never recognized him,
even as he peered into her face,
even after he signed his credit card receipt.
Nandi Comer is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry and an MA in African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University. She has received a Vera Meyer Strube Poetry Prize, Crab Orchard Review’s Richard Peterson Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Callaloo. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Another and Another: An Anthology From the Grind Daily Writing Series (Bull City Press, 2012), Cave Canem Anthology XII (Willow Books 2012), Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Sycamore Review, and Third Coast.