The Glimmering Room by Cynthia Cruz

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The Glimmering Room is a coming of age story, but not your regular bildungsroman. In this world, girls are asked to grow up too fast, to be sexual before their time. In this world, teenagers are sent to mental wards because they react to the expectations placed upon them. These poems remind us that growing up cannot only be difficult, but terrifying. Young men and women get bullied, depressed, and medicated. In this world, we find silent girls and broken boys.

A wonder room, a slumber
room of girls, grown

and long since given up.

rummaging the waste
bin of memory.



The boys here
Are beautiful. But sad.

Drugged, they slumber
In their dorm rooms

For weeks on end, wander
The never-ending halls, murmuring.

(“The Unheard Music”)

The epigraph for the book is from The Gospel of Thomas and begins: “If you bring forth what is in you, what is within you will save you.” In one of the poems from the “Strange Gospels” sequence, the speaker states: “Now we can pretend I am / Daddy’s blonde princess. Give me my / Medicines, Mommy, so I can forget.” Cruz suggests that our real selves, our real minds, are “outrageous factor(ies),” and where we truly need to live, not in the make-believe lands of television and the dreaming America.

Medication is what makes the world of this book one of make believe. Medicating a problem is easier than facing what a culture has created. Medication removes memory and the self. The speaker knows that being broken down by the culture means that another life has to begin, whether or not it fits any definition society might accept.

Burn the body down
And with it, out goes the pilot

Blue light of the mind.
Everyone said

I was pretty back then.
Maybe, way back then,

Before I began.


The speaker of these poems wants to fight back against expectations and silence. We need her to fight back.

I did not want my body
Spackled in the world’s
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not.

(“Self Portrait”)

Cynthia CruzWe can call these poems confessional. Maybe they echo Plath and Sexton, but Cruz does something different here: everyone in the culture is involved in the problem of silence. Mother, father, sister, and brother. The boys, the girls, the adults, the doctors, the pharmacists. By including more than just a single person’s experience, Cruz makes this a more complex narrative than confessionalism has given us in the past.

Mansions of flat screen TVs
Ghosting: pixilated coma. Mothers

Starving in the suburbs. An anesthetized

Future for all of us. America

Dreamland, an endless
Prescription for Oxycontin.

(“Stages of Disaster”)

The American Dream is a fantasy world created by prescription drugs and television, anything that will dull the mind. It’s easily prescribed and taken, turning Americans into people who don’t know they’re starving. “I’ve got my father’s power // And he got his / From dreams,” states the speaker in “The Going Home Song.” But these are not the dreams of America; these are the dreams that keep a person alive. From the same poem: “Come and take me // If you want, you can / Bury me, singing// In father’s military garb, with no / Ribbons or badges.” The speaker’s own father fought his way through this world, just as the speaker has, just as we all will. Cruz took me on a journey. I saw my life in every part. That is the glory of this book: the speaker looks inward and takes us with her. She looks at every side of this culture and its dirty American dream. She doesn’t speak through characters by exaggerating dialogue or bodily movements. She shows us real life in all its grit and grime, its piss and blood. Maybe I was scared for a little while. Then I surfaced. And I read the book again. And again.

Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of the chapbook, Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in UCity Review, Waccamaw, Kestrel, Diode, and Bigger Than They Appear: Anthology of Very Short Poems. More from this author →