Joseph Delgado has a wild tongue and a lightning-bright imagination. Unlike many young poets, he does not cage his poems in nostalgia. In this splendid collection bones break, liquor and semen salt the skin, sand and sickness erode the heart. Delgado reminds us familial and erotic bonds, rendered in vivid and gritty language, do not always redeem. Queer sex allows Delgado to bravely detail the interplay between masculinity and poverty. An unrelenting physicality abounds. ‘Flesh sliding in and out of flesh’ is just as necessary as the ‘flake of/old english on the chest.’ Delgado's gaze is brutal but edged with a sharp-eyed tenderness. ‘Saints are entangled in barb wire” in one poem; in another, there’s a ‘wasp wrapped in/light.’ Stunning images abound. Delgado braids the sting of the desert and the ache of emotional turmoil into lyrics that bristle with rain and blood. This is an astonishing book.
Eduardo Corral, author of the Yale Series of Younger
Poets Prize-winning Slow Lightning
Delgado’s poetry comes at you from behind to whisper heart attacks disguised as love stories. Ditch Water plunges readers into murky depths of desire and dislocation, as this collection charts an intense journey strewn with utter fearlessness and grit. Delgado makes a strong contribution to contemporary queer Xicano poetics. His raw images grind their way into the bones, leaving teeth marks and maps of the desert. This book should come with a seatbelt.
T. Jackie Cuevas, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Women's
and Gender Studies, Syracuse University
The desert flesh, in Delgado’s poetry, is ripped open and oozing. Something murky accumulates here, like ditch water, in the in-between spaces that have not yet healed. The desert people who populate these poems, themselves carrying bone deep memories and displaying skin turned purple to the touch, reject our pity. They remind us that the ravaged desert flesh is their own and that ditch water, accumulated through the scarring of earth and flesh, and ingested for survival, is also an acquired taste. No apologies are necessary here. Delgado’s poetry is dark, but its darkness gives us glimpses of what we need to see.
Ernesto Martínez,Ph.D., author of On Making Sense:
Queer Race Narratives of Intelligibility and co-editor of
Lambda Literary Award-winning Gay Latino Studies: A
The poems of Joseph Delgado’s Ditch Water cut, tear, and rip time. Each untidy shred of a moment, scene, or image captures experience at its most electric, its most inviting. Unfamiliar odors in refrain, “that smell again,” “the stink of early summer,” and mysterious songs, “a moth/breaking its body against wind,” “knees scraping against plaster,” beckon the reader come closer. If not from the first page, you feel the speaker’s “bones show through the skin.” Reading leads to infatuation; Delgado arrives as every fence, every drop of air across tin roof tops, in grains of cornmeal and powdered milk. Stay the night with these poems, “night like a sick horse /stomping the dust into the ground.” And awaken in their “dank sticky air.”
Kristen Naca, author of the National Book Series-winning
Bird Eating Bird