Displaying articles for: August 2008
?They slit my toes; a razor gushed my fingertips.
Stitched shut at last, my limbs were chaste and valuable,
Stuffed with paste of cloves and wild honey.
My eyes were empty, so they filled them up,
Inserting little nuggets of obsidian.
A basalt scarab wedged between my breasts
Replaced the tinny music of my heart?
Death stalks this darkly beautiful book -- the poet's own suicide seems inevitable, and his handsome, mournful face rises like a cloud on the front cover, obscured, half-hidden as he must remain: so much "obsidian" promise undelivered.
It may not be written in any book, but it is written --
You can't go back.
Littlefoot is inhabited by birds, mountains, clouds, and trees more than people. It instructs us like the Tao Te Ching laced with American grief. "But nature is not sincere, nor is it insincere." We must not "be negligent, / So that our hearts end up like diamonds, and not roots." Gorgeous imagery occupies every page. "Deer huddle?then burst like flames in the air." Wright depicts "the Chinese vocabulary of the grasses," "the dark bandages of dusk." He wields color like a master painter -- "poppies along the near hill glisten like small fires, / Pink and orange and damp red." Yet the poet worries that he hasn't done enough." "All I have left undone, I hope someone will make good / in this life or the next." Littlefoot begins and ends in autumn, transforming melancholy to praise-song, "Praise for the left-over and over-looked, / praise for the left hand / And the horse with one lame leg." It is a hymn composed of "pennywhistle music" and silence "here under the latches of Paradise."
Jerome Charyn's fiftieth book may be his best. Abraham Lincoln, known to his contemporaries as a man who loved to tell a good story, steps down from history's pedestal to narrate his improbable career with wit and charm. A bravura act of literary ventriloquism.
The name Eliot Ness and his struggles to bring down Al Capone have passed into the annals of pop heroism via "The Untouchables." But Douglas Perry's biography reveals the less glamorous -- yet no less thrilling -- truth behind the crimefighting myth.
Hassan Blasim offers his first-hand account of contemporary Iraq, in surreal short stories alive with awe, empathy, and a native son's vantage point.