Édgar J. Ulloa Luján’s début manuscript gives me that prickly feeling. I came across his work when it was selected out of dozens of fine entries in the St. Mark’s Poetry Project’s Emerge-Surface-Be mentorship program. Ulloa’s work caught my breath up short. I was unnerved. The physical extremes of the nerves, skin, the top of the lung, is a low-grade fight-flight response to the circumstances we, as the readers, find ourselves in.
The work, in this delicate and rigorous manuscript of drawings, photos, and diverse poem styles, articulates environments and quandaries that one can’t always put one’s finger on—but we know something is definitely “off.” The setting is conceptual borders: between the U.S. and Mexico, danger and safety, children and adults, shopkeepers and consumers, rivers and sand, between piles of dust and the people, winds, water that shimmy and shimmer among these pillars.
The punctuation of watercolor paintings, sketch drawings, aerial maps, and block letters conscribe and, in a way, consecrate the ridged lines that others have drawn, that Ulloa resists. It is through love that the characters in this debut collect wonder and wander:
How is that is easier to go to the moon
than to cross the border or jump to
the neighbors backyard? I asked my father.
Sadly, in her solitude. She smiles at us.
with the moon,
is in love.
It is through love that we are able to navigate the frigid exposure Ulloa delves us into. He shows us he is over the moon.