Tuesday 20 September 2022

CRIME SCENE by Cynthia Pelayo

Cynthia Pelayo sings a song for the least of us, the victim we want to forget as soon as possible, the one who disappeared before ever really appearing. With a fairy tale gaze and a heart bigger than the world, her siren song insinuates itself past our defenses, past the hardened calluses and apathy we’ve erected to protect ourselves from the everyday horror of another missing girl.

Pelayo relates the familiar story, poem by poem; a body is found, a brutal crime investigated, clues take us in circles, and lead us nowhere. We are on an epic journey, the hero’s journey, and it must play out to the end in all its painful, ticking moments. Pelayo imbues her hero, Agent K, with the entirety of our dedication and that crumb of hope we’ve been hiding, saving for later. We will need to save for years, for decades, if we want to come out the other side. The job takes its toll, the answers are never complete and whys fracture, crack and spread. Still there is no turning away. We must bear witness, though it changes and contorts us.

I have to thank Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi and Raw Dog Screaming Press for sending me a copy of this sad and tormenting, but beautiful collection.

The cover prepares the reader for what is waiting within these troubled pages, as much as the title. Yet, I wasn't prepared for the interwoven poems that tell this bleak and heartbreaking tale in a very unique and immersive way.

Each poem is listed under a Report No. and follows what happens after two kids find a dead body. Agent K soon takes over as she investigates. But Agent K is a tortured soul. Not only is she haunted by the endless, callous nature of what human monsters are capable of doing, but her past is darkened by her own personal tragedy. An experience that chases her into slumber and doesn't fade while she's awake.

The way Cynthia Pelayo paints such detailed and gruesome murder scenes is only rivalled by the beauty of the dark imagery. I could see every location she describes so vividly, imagine all the ghosts, and smell the cloying scent of decay. 

Poetry, in the hands of a skilful poet, can dig it's claws deep into your soul until every word takes your breath away. And that happened to me many times, while reading this stunning collection. 

True crime is one of those things that horrify and intrigue us at the same time. I've been watching a lot of it lately and after every case featuring an innocent woman or girl—because it's mostly the female of the species who suffer these horrendous and unfair crimes—reaches it's horrible conclusion, I always feel the same way. Broken and sad, confused while asking the one question that never seems to be answered: Why take what isn't yours? Because, even when the selfish killer has a screwed-up motive for their despicable actions, it never justifies taking someone else's life.

And this brings me back to this brutal book. I loved how confronting every single poem is, and how well each lyrical word captures the macabre, uncomfortable subject matter.

This is definitely a keeper. The contents of this poetry collection might have torn me apart at every turn, but I loved it.

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