Book Review: Helium by Rudy Francisco

Poetry again. I hope that’s alright. I think I’m addicted. Helium is a book unexpected. But the lines that stopped me in my tracks read:

And we often forget that sexism is a family heirloom that we’ve been passing down for generations. As men, it is important that we start asking ourselves,
What will boys learn from us?
— Chameleon by Ruby Francisco, helium page 44-46

It’s not actually that often that a male author writes about playing a part in the role of sexism, at least so far in my reading experience. To see it written so blatantly, in a poem and that poem talking about the generations before and changing for the future, surprised me. I wish that more were open to seeing the damage done. Maybe the lines hit me harder because it’s been an insane month in the US. But I feel like more people need to understand that children learn their behaviors from us. Right now I can think of two men in my life whose sons will be raised aware and one of them hasn’t even had their first kid yet. It’s scary to me how many men are raising sons to treat women like objects. There’s this idea in my head that I shouldn’t be congratulating this author for being so frank with his words, this should be common place and not abnormal. But that’s not how it is and I appreciate lines like that when I see them. I think that overall I need to start seeking out more books that call out bad behaviors.

The love poems written in here don’t fall into the troupe of “women are so beautiful but they don’t know it”, but he did write love poems. My favorite is Sip (below). It’s a love poem to one’s self. Learning to love yourself and take compliments is important. I struggled with it for years and I’m just now getting use to the temperature.

I take my compliments
the same way I take
my coffee.

I don’t drink coffee.

The last time I did,
it seared my entire mouth
and I couldn’t taste
anything for three days.

I am still learning how to
let endearment sit until
it’s ready to be consumed.

hold it to my lips
and sip slowly.
— Sip by Ruby Franciscno, helium page 19

From there he covers depression, race and honestly there are so many wonderful words in this one hundred pages, I don’t know where to begin. It’s sad to me how the poetry I have read, written by white men or women only over cover topics of love and depression. I haven’t seen their branch out to cover topics of race and privilege. Now I also haven’t read that much poetry, we are still talking under 20 books or so. So maybe this is just because of what I am choosing to read.

Poetry written by people of color do not focus on just love and depression. Though that is definitely part of it, their love poetry, like this book is written very different as I’ve already said. But it’s the other topics that get me. Words that need to be heard more than they are. Words like the ones found in the follow poems in this book; Page (page 9), To the Man Standing on the Corner Holding the Sign That Said “God Hates Gays (page 66-67), Rifle II (page 70-73), Mercy (page 80), Cookout (page 87), Complainers (page 91-94).

I know poetry isn’t for everyone and that’s fine. However I do think it’s important for us to educate our selves on matters of sexism, racism and privilege. Three things that are massively affecting far too many people. We need to break the mold. I am unsure of my part and to change that I dive into words like this. Ruby Franciscno book helium is a good quick read. It’s not an easy one, but it is definitely worth picking it up.

Other books read this week:

  1. The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps for Personal Transformation by Robert J. Butera (library) ★★★ - I took a lot of notes while reading this but at some point my desire for yoga just flew away. This is for a for reasons; the book started to overwhelm, I started a new more intense workout regime, and suddenly people were asking after me at the studio. There is a lot of good in this book and I am glad I have notes to study on. I’ve missed yoga and my daily practice, but it’s coming back.