"Purgatory Has an Address" by Romaine Washington

  • "Purgatory Has an Address" by Romaine Washington

Purgatory Has an Address is a dream state woven of origin myths, it is the search for birth parents; and it is the sober reality of living in a beautiful, pungent, red-lined neighborhood. Washington’s collection of poems speaks to the powerful desire to belong and be in community. It is an homage to the rugged determination of tumbleweeds and an encouragement to keep asking questions even if the answers do not magically appear.

Mother. Daughter. Daddy. Child. Each one of these poems explores the topography of family history and family pain with a sense of ferocity that eats the reader alive. The sun glares without warmth and black boxes drift through desert landscapes as Washington tears through the emotional terrain of violence intermixed with tenderness and longing. Reading these poems, you will understand why “penance is a slow process” and how we live with the hurt of what was done to us in the unrelenting terrible beauty of this book of poems.
—Nikia Chaney, poet, Literary Laureate, and author of us mouth
Purgatory Has An Address by Romaine Washington is a poetry collection abundant with magic, manifestation, and mediation despite these bleakest of times. “I am writing from inside a burning building,” she proclaims across the page, where trauma can make time spin: “tomorrow she is telling me it feels good to be quarantined.” And yet, with guidance from ancestors, “with nana there is always time,” she grounds herself and the reader in moments of much needed peace. From fires, chaos, and grief, Washington creates herself new: “and she was poem / and she was good.” Let this collection be a reminder to anyone who needs it, that they, too, are a poem. “ashé ashé amen amen awoman awoman.”
—Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, author of Posada:Offerings of Witness and Refuge
Purgatory Has An Address is an ode to the poetry of place and how this poetry weaves itself into the heart of the people who are both inhabitants and the place itself. Centered in the poetry of place is the way that one can simultaneously create, be created and perish with the utterance of a single word. Throughout Romaine Washington’s beautiful chapbook is the tension between becoming and unbecoming in the homes and hands of those around the speakers. To create the self becomes a soft balance between what is known about the past, what is unknown and the power to piece together our own stories, “the girl came down / with wadded balls / of poetry in both eyes.” Because of Washington’s incredible use of language, images and surprise, by the end, it is as if there is no way to exist without poetry at all.
—Allyson Jeffredo, author of Songs After Memory Fractures
Romaine Washington’s poems in Purgatory Has an Address smolder with unpretty claws and an emptiness that seeks belonging. There’s magic for your senses and music in her words – “the skin weeps when it is badly burned.” She is nameless at birth like a tumbleweed apart from her roots. “You gave me away” infiltrates the book like the red-line on a map where she grows up. Romaine conjures a world where, “i thrive on brittle bites.” Later, she lives in a place where her son is called vagrant in the hot tub. He knows the drill. These poems grab you by the throat with just enough room to breathe as they spill out the door.
—Cindy Rinne, author of silence between drumbeats

Reading of "at the end of the devil’s breath" from the chapbook Purgatory Has an Address by Romaine Washington. Video by Marcus Muscato. Music by Francisco Alvear.

Romaine Washington

Romaine Washington, M. Ed. is the author of "Sirens in Her Belly" (2015, Jamii Publications). She is a fellow of The Watering Hole, South Carolina and the Inland Area Writing Project at the University of California Riverside. She is an active member of the poetry community in the Inland Empire. Washington is an educator and a native Californian from San Bernardino.

Twitter: poetromaine

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Instagram: poetromaine

Website: www.romainewashington.com

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