Scream into my Mouth as a Waterfall by C. Aloysius Mariotti / Rhythm and Bones Press / 978195205000856 / 56 pages/ March 2020
C. Aloysius Mariotti’s Scream into my Mouth as a Waterfall is an astounding first full-length achievement. This body of work marries poetry, prose, essay, micro-plays, and illustration as the reader is taken on a journey of one’s self and its many intricacies. Throughout, we are treated to not just the concept of an individual exploring their place in the world and reassessing the past, but also in the context of others; primarily portrayed in this release as mythological figures explored in modern terms.
At turns, Mariotti views the world through a microscope and, at others, he expresses his surroundings as though he has just seen them through a kaleidoscope. Examples of these two vantage points intermingling can be spotted throughout SimMaaW, but “backdrifting” is especially keen in recalling details from a heightened state of nostalgia and then turning these remembrances upside-down:
“[W]henever I hear Man in the Mirror I taste the strong soapy chlorinated water of the carson junior high swimming pool…”
“…coming home from college, it seemed like all my former haunts changed — baseball fields became apartments; dairy queen became a sonic burger; tri-city mall became a vacant building surrounded by chain-link fence…”
These are such bittersweet, in-depth connections to the past; reignited and ablaze with description, overwhelmed feelings.
But there are also moments like this bit of cloud-gazing in this particular prose that, while very rooted in visions from days past, are also looked at in a spinning, spiraling, colorful, devastating, unusual way:
“…the [cloud] in the south turns into a blue pickup truck stuffed with picture books and clothes and bicycles — no, now it’s distorting into a face as the sky changes to a howling darkness with ferocious wind and sounds are a dissonance of fast voices and wails and the cloud-face grows pointed teeth very almost touch me while I’m motionless / paralyzed I can only shut my eyes so hard that blood pours down my skin.”
It is Mariotti’s ability to connect one’s own life in thoughtful, magical and even terrifying ways that make his debut collection such a standout.
In addition to different genres of writing being featured in this book, there are unique presentations of poems throughout. “modern pip, fragmented” is delivered in 11 parts. Poems in diptych and triptych form focus on deserts and lessons but these ideas also carry through much of Scream into my Mouth as a Waterfall. The repetition of these ideas, and many more, when encountered in other writings within this text, does not get boring or overwrought. They serve as inspiration in delving deeper into the self and its place, meaning, and the lifetime’s journey.
The desert is brought to our attention in more works. In “saint de los milagros” not only is the large thematic idea of one being “a shape shifter” immediately stated, but we quickly find out that the narrator is “just a man in the dry daytime desert.” Lessons also appear across the meandering, curious lines of SimMaaW, especially in terms of relationships. Although lessons are in primary focus in the triptych, they can also be observed in pieces such as “possession” where “…there was a girl you had — lorelei — gone beyond droogen punches and gasps. not your fault, no. families move but I can still creep and blush downward drifts…”
Illustrations by Mathew Yates use color and shape to express a solitude that yearns to become more; muted gradients of various hues very subtly connect and the light shifts in color are like a mood ring channeling the emotional elements of poems and essays into a transforming visual. Bodies and landscapes from Yates’ perspective tend to slide ever-downward, becoming one with the depths Mariotti explores. Yates’ cover art fascinates with celestial light blinking over a setting wherein the singular body in sight is gently realizing a sense of place and impending death.
One of the micro-plays features accompanying art by Stuart Buck. The design so adeptly captures the moon and the owl and oak discussed in the dialogue. It is stark and the sparse-but-succinct layering of color has a quiet intensity.
Scream into my Mouth as a Waterfall collection stuns with a tremendous amount of emotion, glimmers with vivid detail through even the murkiest encounters, and is, overall, a challenging but perfectly-executed collection. There is a lot of growth and learning across this expanse of memorable writing.