ALIEN TO ANY SKIN
Jim Agustin’s collection of poetry ALIEN TO ANY SKIN seems at first like a big house with many mansions. And that house seems to be positioned outside our every-day experience, our comfort zone; it is not built to plans we recognize immediately as familiar architecture. And yet, after reading and re-reading we begin to slip into Agustin’s territory which is recognizable after all. We begin to learn that we are not at all aliens under the skin, but that we love, laugh, cry, hurt, bleed as each other. We are not strangers at all. Still, his poetry is dipped in what seems at first geographically, historically and culturally alien colors and has to be approached as such until our hearts listen to more than the words.
ALIEN TO ANY SKIN takes us through a myriad of emotions, but mostly into a world where love is tinged by sadness, where people, especially children, aren’t safe, where invaders kill, burn and torture, where poverty can be extreme and were the comfortable public relations speech about the ‘why’ of it all no longer pulls a punch.
Yet, one of the strongest emotions I received from reading this excellent collection is the sense of being forgiven and being encouraged to forgive.
The collection is too large to give specific examples – they would fill several pages – but I don’t want to recommend ALIEN TO ANY SKIN without quoting what for me is its ‘signature tune’, so to speak:
A Letter from an Alien to His Friend, Michael Raymond
We always wonder
“What is out there?”
Curiosity and paranoia wrestle
Until they swallow each other’s infinity.
We stare at ever expanding universes
We know so little of, and yet
Declare grand dominion over.
Such vanity, such futility.
Perhaps this way of thinking
Is nothing but over-exposure
To too many episodes of a favourite TV show
Now on re-run.
But where is “There” as opposed to “Here?”
Alien, foreign to familiar?
Looking out, looking in?
Is it by random chance,
That the paths of different worlds,
Cross, intersect, begin
To move parallel to each other
While others whirl away all on their own?
In a friendship that knows
The clear possibility that my hands
May never shake yours
I offer this
Something for all those universes
Inside each of us
Waiting for that moment of wonder.