Jaguar does not care for your reality’s boundaries. Jaguar eats them.
Poet and teacher at Texas A & M International University, Suzette Marie Bishop transforms the world around her with her poetry. The rippled cover of Jaguar’s Book of the Dead is delightful to the touch and reinforces Bishop’s mission to captivate her readers by providing them with a tactile as well as mentally stimulating experience. Readers will “…sink lower on your couch…” and watch “…windows steaming up with…jungle humidity…” as they become engrossed with Bishop’s work.
The entire collection is dedicated to jaguars as the animals they are and to the powerful role they have played in human mysticism throughout the years. “Jaguar Remembers You Leaning over Him, Weeping” is a piece that is as supple and elegant as the dying animal is honors. “I know the way to the Underworld…,” the deceased Jaguar says soothingly. Readers will feel a sandpaper tongue upon their cheeks as these final lines echo through their heads:
Let it die, the fire in your eyes, ashes landing in the urn of your
heart, let my
springing haunches carry you.
Jaguar’s Book of the Dead is an extremely concise collection. Blink and it will disappear into the fauna of your back garden, making you wonder if you ever saw it at all. But like all good writers frolicking within the weird and wondering world of magical realism, Bishop leads her readers through fogs of color that still reveal the absurdities of the real world. Such an occurrence appears in “Jaguar Outlines the Ritual for Burying a Jaguar,” which was written for Juma. During the 2016 Olympics, Juma the jaguar was posed for photos with the Olympic torch and then shot after she became agitated and escaped her handler. “Mourning does nothing,” the speaker admonishes while preparing the burial.
Although it was written in 2018, Jaguar’s Book of the Dead has succeeded in making itself timeless.
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