For the Love of an Armadillo
Review by Missy McEwen
In the pages of For the Love of an Armadillo by Didi Menendez (illustrated by Jeremy Baum), a delicate love affair (between The Armadillo and the narrator) takes shape. It is a love affair that is complicated and simple at the same time -- simple because they enjoy each other's company and are there for each other; there is no arguing, just dancing and watching television together, eating together, and sometimes kissing, but complicated because, for the narrator, there is conflict. The narrator is afraid she might be falling in love with The Armadillo. In the first poem of For the Love of an Armadillo "Armadillo," the poet writes:
"I am not sure how
the armadillo found
his way into my life…
I tell myself
not to feel
for the armadillo.
woman my age
should feel for
The illustration that comes before "Armadillo" is of a woman with an armadillo in her chest, next to her heart. The book carries on in this fashion -- the artwork (illustrated by Jeremy Baum) that precedes the poem complements the poem, so the reader gets a visual picture, as well as a poetic picture, of the developing relationship between the narrator and The Armadillo. In some of the illustrations featuring The Armadillo, the reader sees his 'stache, his stare, the smoke coming from his cigarette. It is not hard to believe why the narrator may be feeling for and falling for The Armadillo. She even gave him the nickname "Armadillo." But even though she knows him well enough to give him a pet name, she does not know him well enough to know his real name. In the poem "Armadillo and Andalucia," the poet writes:
"His real name may be Harry or Richard or Tom.
I don't know because he never offered to tell me.
I never asked.
I never ask Armadillo anything.
He never asks me anything either
except for the occasional what's for dinner?"
She does not know his real name, still she cooks him dinner as though she wants to be something more to him. She does for him as a mother would. In "Armadillo's Shoes," she tells him to shine his shoes. She gives him the polish and she spits on the shoes for him. She even wants to "knit him a sweater," but by the end of the poem, she wants to be more than a mother figure, she wants to be a lover; she wants The Armadillo to kiss her. The poem ends with these words:
"…kiss me Armadillo.
I want you to kiss me…hard."
And the poem that follows begins with the words "Armadillo only kisses me/when there is a full moon/or when it rains." This poem "Armadillo's Kisses" comes after the illustration titled "Conquest," and because of this sequence, I get the impression that the narrator has made her move, has given up trying to fight her feelings for The Armadillo, and The Armadillo has somewhat surrendered. But still she is taking it slow, maybe, not wanting to scare off The Armadillo by rushing things. She knows "never to serve/him snails al ajillo because snails/remind him of his first love." She takes what is given and does not ask for more. He kisses her, but only when it rains, only when there is a full moon. There is a limit to his love. Maybe during these times (of rain and full moons) he becomes sentimental and kissing is the only thing that will do.
In Didi Menendez' For the Love of an Armadillo, there are moments of tenderness, moments of longing, moments of passion, and moments of friendship. For the Love of an Armadillo is a classic story of a love affair told through poetry and pictures. It is a great read.
For the Love of an Armadillo, published by Goss 183::CASA Menendez (2008-2009), can be purchased from www.lulu.com/content/5543766, and soon from Amazon and other online bookstores.