Nuance and texture

It’s been five years since retired Sacramento State University professor Mary Mackey’s last book, Breaking the Fever; her latest book of poems, Sugar Zone, was worth the wait. Written in four parts, Sugar Zone blends Portuguese and English, adding a layer of texture for English-only readers and nuanced meanings for those who read Portuguese. Mackey guides readers through dangerous, beautiful places where “they’re drinking the bebida preta / black drink” and “the heat is a long hiss / a desert of bones.” She writes an “Obituary for a City That Is Still Alive,” where “a little girl in a red jacket dash[es] / across a playground to kick a blue ball.” Mackey seamlessly threads together sharp, crisp images and language to create rhythm, music, and a world that includes gods like Xangó and Olokun and personas like Solange who “saw us coming / in a dream” and “left on a ribbon of water / and gold light.”