I hear it mostly in the deep
guttural tailpipes of Fords & Chevys revving out of a Friday afternoon
high school parking lot in a small New Mexican desert
town--Sunset Avenue pulsing
like a neck vein that leads to the heart
of downtown, where Main Street pumps cars all night
stop light to stop light between the A&W
and the Tasty-Freeze, engines overheating
then finally boiling over in ice-patched two a.m.
driveways, cooling down with the ticking sounds
of shrinking metal, re-buckling of belts, re-hooking of bras.
I'd like to talk to the boys behind the wheels,
the girls curled up on humps between bucket seats;
I'd like to tell them there is nothing out here
in two thousand twelve except what they bring with them,
how they should climb out and start packing--
the juniper's needle-leaves, never pressed
between pages of a Bible, the scorpion's breath
exhaled through abdominal stigmata, sand swept
from sagebrush roots, lifted by the twisting fist of a dust devil,
all collecting in luggaged silence--I'd like to tell them
how there will always be enough falling
brimstone, lakes of fire, flaming bushes,
wilted flowers, how there will always be enough gods
to punish them for putting their tongues to the warm clay,
to turn them to salt for glancing back while walking away,
how, when asked "where are you?" "what have you done?"
"who told you that you were naked?" what they will need most
will be to learn to love the questions.
I fill boxes
until I'm out of boxes
and I lie on the floor
waiting for my brother to come,
waiting for more boxes.
My wife was thorough. There's nothing
of theirs, not a toy, not a sock,
not a hair. Later, I may admire her
efficiency, how after ten years,
she could move so easily,
removing excess with a surgeon's skill,
until I am left,
must pack my stuff, must leave
our home by tomorrow.
"There are books that leave us, once we
have turned the last page, with a soft, clear tone that overrides ideas
or emotional impressions. It is the music of grief and desire, when
grief and desire have become indistinguishably joined. Jenn Habel's
In the Little House is such a collection. 'No one told me it would
be so impersonal . . .' says its speaker, 'my charge/ to be her globe,
then station, / then something in a warm wind. . .' How beautiful a book
that so embodies its subject matter, an emptiness from which children
are born and poems imagined. How difficult a resolution to release a
child in small increments, a world whose loveliness can only move
continuously away. Habel's poems are the little houses of that world: in
which first memories and first words are right now being made." —David
From Okinawa to Vietnam
to the marital bed, these poems pack a punch—and a caress. Military and domestic
battlegrounds are viewed close up, through the unsparing eye of a photographer.
And yet these poems fairly bristle with restrained emotion. These are decent,
honorable poems, and under them all is a fine music that makes the grief more
"With 'dark swollen words and shifting air,' Matthew Nienow builds poems as if
building boats, 'each strip like a tree's growth,' and 'asking the question
rivers are always asking: why?' From Nienow I am grateful to have learned that
poetry 'is movement with one desire: to pull at whatever it touches.' There is
much talk these days of the importance of a poet's voice. But here we have proof
that a poet's ear…for music, for complexity, for 'the prodigal aria
returning home'…is just as important."
An excerpt from Section 3: My
Father Dressing Me as Zorro, taken from the poem "Listening to Coltrane on
the 4th of July":
I've lowered a mask over my face
The eye-slits don't fit, and I can't see.
I scent the smoke of his cigarette. I tell him
they turned off the electricity, the gas and phone,
that neighbors fed us after he left. I'm feeling
in the gift box for a toy rapier, which I wave
between us. He tells me to stop horsing around:
this close, one of us is likely to get hurt.
insightful, the poems of Michael Meyerhofer aren't afraid to go to those
weird places other poets fear or dismiss. There's equal parts humor and
pathos in this poet, and he brings us poems that regard the world with a
certain lyric skepticism that, nonetheless, wants to believe in all those
old-fashioned ancient truths—beauty, harmony, peace. Meyerhofer's poems are
much more durable than the 'Cardboard Urn' of this collection's title
poem—they are resilent, incisive, and ultimately, redemptive."