by Ramya Ravindrababu
People get lost in dreams; we forget that the same rain that creates rainbows leaves behind thick muddy puddles. In his book Slow Lightning Eduardo Corral presents a realistic picture of human struggle. He creates stark portraits of individuals who give up everything for their metaphorical rainbows but end up stuck in puddles, showing us that the largest let down for Latin American immigrants is the reality of their circumstances. Corral uses formatting and shocking imagery to portray how the ideal of a situation fragments into shards of what could have been. A particularly striking format is the cracked stanza used in “Velvet Mesquite”: the poem creates a perfectly rectangular shape, save for the crack running through the center – a compelling and crafty representation of internal failings beneath a seemingly ideal picture. Throughout the book, the reader is jarred by the juxtaposition of a character’s innocent yearnings (a boy yearning to be like his father – “...I borrow his clothes”) against the vivid cruelty of the situation (the boy’s identity being torn apart by his father – “The gaze of the moon // stitches the buttons of his shirt to my skin / The snake hisses. The snake is torn”). Corral fearlessly approaches taboo such as romantic relationships tainted by AIDS and the horrors of crossing the American-Mexican border; he tears past the ideal and delves into the struggle of his characters’ lives. Although truth is often presented as a series of unpleasant confrontations with the puddles of life, Corral manages to weave in moments of light, friendship, and humor – capturing the subtleties of reality. Corral speaks to the immigrant struggle specifically, but the disappointment of seeking rainbows and ending up with nothing but a pair of muddy boots is a pinch we have all experienced. It is this universality that draws readers of all backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences to Slow Lightning.
Ramya Ravindrababu is a first-year student at Boston University and comes from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.