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ISBN: 978-1-955239-19-6
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Categories Chapbooks, Nomadic, Poetry

Loss and the Other Rivers that Devour

Publication Date: February 2022


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. Loss and the Other Rivers that Devour was originally published by Nomadic.

Loss and the Other Rivers that Devour charts the evolution of one son’s grief as he reconciles his identity with the expectations of his late father. In this journey of becoming, Gustavo Barahona-López struggles with and is shaped by loss and its many hauntings: toxic masculinity, colonial erasures of language and heritage, and the legacy of the United States’ xenophobic immigration policies.


Father told me I should never cry./ What a thing to demand of a waterfall,” Gustavo Barahona-López writes. If you’ve ever known what it feels like to be the son of a Mexican immigrant father, this book is for you. And if you haven’t, this book is especially for you. Here is a guide on how to find opportunity beyond barren deserts, on how some men carve dreams from the bones of their tender children. What becomes of masculinity after you’ve wept into your father’s arms? Who do you pray to if you cannot speak to the “Purépecha gods [because you] do not know their names”? This poet ruminates deeply while running from himself until his body aches, then builds a home from his accumulated pain. These poems are moments of catharsis, of individual suffering turned collective understanding. These notes are a mourning over our future; they are a young man’s concerns about not only his survival, but that of his own hijos. I want to live more fully after reading LOSS AND OTHER RIVERS THAT DEVOUR. I want to joke with everyone around me, and embrace our endless destinies. I want to reread these poems beside my father, Ignacio, somewhere beneath the California sky, until the language becomes our dust. “Mis hijos/ forgive me for what/ I drowned.” Barahona-López has offered us a window into machismo and anti-machismo; into Mexican fatherhood and the lineage of childhood that follows; into fighting for your place in this devouring world, all at once.
Alan Chazaro, author of Piñata Theory and This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album

I hate myself because I cannot write this” is a line from Gustavo Barahona-Lopez’s book that reveals the collection’s courage to confront with uncompromising honesty, and that marks so many poems that help us to love our colonized selves better. Through poems that look into the complex feelings of mourning, resent, disorientation, and colonial violences like machiste, these poems bloom past the myth of unemotional self to a foundation that we struggle to find, because we never lost it, but must believe in and form now. Language heals here. It reconstitutes our reality. I read this collection with my mom, and an understanding and recognition of ourselves became palpable, and we cried, but now, we too are reaching for blood—or rather, understand ourselves through the speaker as “a place reaching for its foundation.
Sara Borjas, author of Heart Like a Window, Mouth like a Cliff

Gustavo Barahona-López is a poet of forgiveness. Loss and Other Rivers that Devour mourns what was left unsaid between a father and son, rife with a desire to find tenderness towards those who have hurt us most. “The flowers swallowed the tender in him / Drank the dancing in him.” Here are poems that allow us the solace to accept that perhaps there is language that can only exist in absence of others. Perhaps it is never too late to forgive. “I am too much earth to die” says the final line of the final poem, reminding us that the past is never really gone.
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, author of Cenzontle and Children of the Land

Look down through the waters of memory, separation, grieving, and loss and you will see a village in which someone called your true name sweetly and some other, who was your father, still walks with an imagined you that is a ghost. In this book, Barahona-López takes us through our own bodies, sifts the waters, both sweet and salt, in an intimate invitation, one of longing and brokenness. He crafts a mythic and otherworldly tenderness, fearless in his adoption of forms like the elegy, the ode, the couplet. Who has not experienced relational rupture? Whole poems I imagine sung out from many lips in kinship and claimed, written on their bodies, because they seem already to be an extension of the indelible inking, a scarring of the body and a stitching over as he guides us towards a healing, always a process of becoming. Flutter the eyes against the falling rain or the falling water we make. This is a book that calls one to shed artifice and shields and walls, both internal and external, political and familial. And it is absolutely necessary right now. Right now.
Raina J. León, PhD, profeta without refuge

This aptly named collection holds nothing back. Barahona-Lopez doesn’t fight any one current, astutely steering these poems with care and honesty about all things masculine, all things familia, all things Mexicano. Gustavo opens up to the wind, in the light of day, so that we the readers can make sense of the world with new visions. The moments that speak to love and loss and inquiry are profound and honorable. These poems are full of jagged truths and smooth embrujos. These poems make you wade in the water with them at night and remind us all ‘I am too much earth to die.’
Lupe Mendez, 2022 Texas Poet Laureate, author of Why I am Like Tequila (Willow Books, 2019)

About the Author

Gustavo Barahona-López

Gustavo Barahona-López is a writer and educator from Richmond, California. In his writing, Barahona-López draws from his experience growing up as the son of Mexican immigrants. He was a finalist for the 2021 Quarterly West poetry prize and his chapbook Loss and Other Rivers That Devour was published by Nomadic Press in 2022. Barahona-López's full-length collection, Foundation is forthcoming from Flowersong Press. A member of the Writer's Grotto and a VONA alum, Barahona-López's work can be found or is forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Puerto del Sol, The Acentos Review, Apogee Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, among other publications.

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