In Search of Evanescence: A Conversation with Michelle Brittan Rosado

By Feroz Rather
FROM: The Southeast Review

downloadBorn in San Francisco and raised in Vacaville, Michelle Brittan Rosado earned an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno, and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing & Literature at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Why Can’t It Be Tenderness, which won the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018). Her chapbook, Theory on Falling into a Reef, won the inaugural Rick Campbell Prize (Anhinga Press, 2016). Her poems have been published in the Alaska Quarterly ReviewIndiana ReviewPoet LoreSan Francisco Chronicle’s “State Lines” column, and The New Yorker, as well as several anthologies.

                                                                    Love After Dentistry

                                                              by Michelle Brittan Rosado

With my mouth half-numb against yours,

                                                                                                the palm on my face might as well touch

anyone’s. I can’t feel your thumb pulling down

                                                                                                                      my bottom lip, index resting

under the chin, even though it’s a habit made familiar

                                                                                                             to me now. I have to rely on sight

to know what you’re doing, your eyes closed

                                                                                                   against the memory of another woman

for all I know. Beyond us and the wall

                                                                                 of the room, the grass stretches towards the end

of the yard. I could call up the fingers

                                                                                                                     of someone else; I’ve done it

before. It was a kind of test, the recollection

                                                                                                                          of the last man like a layer

over your movements so that, for a second,

                                                                                                         the two of you blurred. And I would

do the work of finding you—the pressure

                                                                                                      of your arm behind my back, your hip

on the inner side of my thigh—just to separate

                                                                                                         your touch from his, and in this way

I could choose you over and over. Maybe

                                                                               you’ve done the same, there may have been times

my body changed under your body, it’s possible

                                                                                            you did not know who I was until I returned

to you as myself, and whatever light

                                                                                                the day had left would uncover our faces

to each other. But this time I turn my head, run

                                                                                      my tongue over the raw surfaces of my mouth

for the first time, while the fence outside

                                                                                                        the window arranges itself in parallel

lines. Here are new spaces, the hard

                                                                                                           plaster sanded over, my own teeth.

From Why Can’t It Be Tenderness by Michelle Brittan Rosado. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2018 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.


Much of your work is in the liminal and this quality of liminality suffuses, I suppose, your poems with the longing to extend yourself back and forth in history. Could you tell us how you see the contours, moral and geographical, that define this space for you? What is in the middle? What tensions transpire in the in-between?

As a Californian, I’m fascinated with being at the edges of things: the continent and the ocean, the border between countries, where the urban and the rural meet. One side of my family stretches back five generations in this state, while the other side lives across the Pacific in Malaysia, so traveling that expanse of the ocean several times in my life has also given me an appreciation for what lies between and what it takes to get from one place to another, one state of mind to another.

I appreciate that you speak of the in-between in terms of longing, because this is the feeling that makes the tension of liminality seem worthwhile to me. Longing is driven by desire and connection. Feeling in-between can be marked by sadness, but the root of this is really love. This is part of why I felt compelled to have “tenderness” in the title of the collection, as the word can imply woundedness, but at the same time it also suggests being gentle with that woundedness. We may not be “there,” wherever that is, but in language we can name it and seek it. In my poetry I’m always striving for that more aerial view—that wherever there’s disconnection we can also find desire and beauty surrounding it. Read Rest of Interview Here


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