Home Depot has always been a difficult spot for me; I’ve always been more of a Lowe’s guy, but that might be more regional. Even then, I’ve never really had the home or the money to really purchase anything at those home improvement stores—most of my trips there were to purchase a plant or another for my mom’s birthday. Imagine if they could just all be gone, though. In Ariel Francisco’s dream world, I think they’ve all been burnt down. By him (allegedly), to make a statement: that the only people who spend money in home improvement stores are people who have homes and extra money, that the people who work and sell things at home improvement stores are fed-up with the thankless bullshit they put up with, and that, mostly, there is a definite beauty in the destroying of boundaries and the relinquishing of limits as worlds merge together over the gratifying blaze.
Reading All My Heroes Are Broke is easy. Too easy. Dangerously easy. I read it in one gulp. And then I gulped it down again, and once more before I finally began paying attention to the azurite-sincerities littering each page like the orchard of ultra-colored broken glass at the bottom of the Christmas-light box. Much of the book is an act of getting to know the speaker—intimately understanding the person who comes to notice the exhausted cashier, and who is constantly on the move physically and mentally with a new author, a new book that is in their hands eagerly running perpendicular to the lived life before us. “The vomit stretches / like an evening shadow down one end of the car /” Francisco writes in “READING JAMES WRIGHT ON THE L TRAIN,” “and I walk towards the other, lay down on a now / vacant bench.” The poems here speak towards the nature of a person who is vulnerable, intimate, and willing to go along with whatever ride might be thrown at them. They speak towards one willing to use the nothing-areas, the absences, in order to feel more comfortable and achieve a degree of tranquil satisfaction.
My only connection to Florida is an uncle who lives in St. Augustine. I visited him once, for about ten days, and determined that the entire state was morbidly fascinating. Now I follow the “Florida Man___” subreddit which takes the real newspaper article headlines and makes their extraordinarily unique scopes be available for all to see. Much of Francisco’s book is navigating New York, Miami, the ways one travels into and out of these cities, and the places one travels into and out of when in these cities and utterly, infallibly, broke. Francisco writes in “THE YOUNG MEN ALONG THE BAR ARE TOO TIRED EVEN TO DIE,” in my opinion one of the most honest, and haunting poems in his collection: “I am too tired to call back, too / tired to explain, too tired, even, / to walk home and close my eyes.” Much of his work does the uniquely writerly task of opening the poem with the high-poetic drama, the contention, the conflict that is driving the speaker and figures into whatever situations that they are in. After introducing us to the work, it then becomes his task to manage oneself in the wake of such sudden devastations.
Much of All My Heroes Are Broke can be seen in pairs: family figures, worker-consumer, goer-and-leaver, need-and-want. As much as the book demands that I contend with the watcher, the writer, the witnesser, just as large of a portion of it is coming to the tender recognition of all these haunting figures: the bartender, the gamblers, and the wanderer. Not how does one arrive at that point in their life but how does my awareness and silent camaraderie allow respect? While the title speaks directly to the nature of these figures—All My Heroes Are Broke—the book also speaks to other dimensions of broke-ness, and perhaps brokenness, too. In “TRANSIENTS WELCOME,” a moving piece thinking through the idea of heights, climbing, immigration, compassion, and work, Francisco writes, “How could the snow not come down / if their spires were truly piercing the clouds? / Did you consider going up // to the top floor of one to see / for yourself?” I had not considered going to the top floor before now. I’ve been to New York City three times; once I did a Top-of-the-Rock tour. I think it spawned my fear of heights. I still tried considering going to the top floor with this poem.