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Black Lab
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is sophiticated, magical and comforting. The poetry flows and speaks on a most personal level to the privacy of our souls.

This is an incredibly talented man.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
perhaps because he taught English, poetry and prose, at Oberlin for so long, and has translated from the German, Chinese, Polish--and God knows how many other languages. He takes an idea, and puts his own twist on it, or simply a prose statement, and turns it into poetry. And once in a while, adds peculiarities of language one has never thought of before ("It's best to take God backwards; even sideways").

Here are three of my favorites:

Black Labrador

1
Churchill called his bad visits from depression
a big black dog. We have revised that, Winston.
We've named him Nemo, no one, a black hole
where light is gulped--invisible by night:
by day, when light licks everything to shine,
a black silk coat ablaze with inky shade.
He's our black lab, wherein mad scientists
concoct excessive energy. It snows,
and he bounds out, inebriate of cold.
The white flakes settle on his back and neck and nose
and make a little universe.

2
It's best to take God backward; even sideways
He is too much to contemplate, "a deep
but dazzling darkness," as Vaughan says.
And so I let my Nemo-omen lead me
onward and on toward that deep dark I'm meant
to enter, entertain, when my time comes...
The day wheels past, a creaky cart, I study
the rippling anthracite that steadies me,
the tar, the glossy licorice, the sable;
and in this snowfall that I should detest,
late March and early April, I'm still rapt
to see his coat so constellated, starred, re-starred,
making a comic cosmos I can love.

****************

A Doctor's History
(Notes and Acknowledgments at the end of book "...derives from a story in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, by Harlan Spector, about Dr. Mark McDonough, 7/2/01.")

I grabbed the doorknob and it burned my hand.
The door was frozen shut in that much heat.

"And this is how you die..." I dropped down flat
and slithered toward the door of the garage.

That's where they found me, curled up like a fetus,
most of my arm skin burned away, not worth

reviving, truly. In the ambulance,
I said it best: "Please, God, don't let me live."

I do burn cases now, a plastic surgeon;
when they first ask about my waffled skin

I know they're going to make it. I explain
about my grafts, how thighs and butt and groin

supplied the stuff that covered arms and hands.
I don't detail how many operations.

They start to think of life, of coming back.
I do not tell them, though, because they know,

that when you've been to hell, a part of you
will always stay there, stopped at that hot door.

************
Sally and the Sun

"Thus we understand the verb 'cut' in the sentences 'The barber cut my hair,' 'The tailor cut the cloth,' and 'The surgeon cut the skin' quite differently because we bring to bear on these sentences a large cultural background knowledge...For the same reason, we don't know how to interpret the sentences 'Sally cut the sun' or 'Bill cut the mountain.'"

---John Searle (from a review in The New York Review of Books).

1.
Sally cut the sun,
Billy cut the mountain;
Andy had some fun
At the soda fountain.

Ruby caught the light---
No one told her not to;
Janice was a fright
After she'd been taught to.

Diamond cut the glasses,
Jesus cut the cheese;
Goat-boy cropped the grasses
Nodding in the breeze.

2.
Sally cut the sun,
Then she cut the moon;
She was carving paper
During the monsoon.

Billy cut the mountain,
Then it had a notch.
Sun went down behind it.
Billy drank some scotch.

David handled language,
John observed him closely;
Breakfast was an anguish,
Dinner, also, mostly.

Cyril toasts his mother,
Crystal coats a sleeve;
Talking with another
Makes me start to grieve.

Rose inside the iceberg,
Ice inside the rose.
Billy kisses Sally,
Sally breaks his nose.

Bill clear-cut the mountain,
Then it was all stumps.
Sally cut the sunlight,
Then she got the mumps.

Watch the phoenix rise
Perfect from its ashes,
Rigid with surprise
Circled round with flashes.

(In other words (my interpretation): on the contrary--put together any set of words as any sort of organized noise in his native language, and a poet can make of them a joke, a plaint, or eternity.)

*******************************
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