Tea

book by D.A. Powell

annotation by Dane Larsen

After flipping past the table of contents in D.A. Powell’s Tea, the reader is presented with a simple, concise warning from the author himself: “This is not a book about AIDS,” (xi). I was struck by such a straight-forward yet unconventional opening statement—writers in general tend to avoid statements detailing what a book is or is not about. Yet, in this particular case, I think it works. I, at least, hold the same belief as D.A. Powell that poetry (and art in general) produced by members of the LGBT community (gay men in particular) is always interpreted/presented/ marketed as necessarily being “about AIDS.” While this book of poetry does, in part, tell the stories of men who died of AIDS, and while it contains allusions to AIDS elsewhere, it is not so much about AIDS as it is affected by AIDS. The book as a whole is a moving entity, a serpent which winds its way through life and death, love and loss, at times illuminated with such levity as only someone who has survived and come to appreciate life can do.

The first thing to be noticed about the poetry in Tea is Powell’s propensity for spreading his poems out across a page, beyond the typical margins of a portrait-oriented sheet of 8×11 paper. To accommodate such an unconventional physical form, the book is set in landscape orientation. The way these poems are spread across each page, in conjunction with the typically short sentence structure, forces a particular pace of reading. It is a rapid pace, littered with pauses and punctuation which cause the reader to stop and think about what he just read: “the truth: he was no monument. sockets I plugged into. warm circles I could make with my fingers” (21). The reader cannot simply breeze through such lines; there is no flowing musicality to lift the tone of a particular line or phrase with jocular lyricism. Yet there is still a kind of motion involved in each poem, stemming from the fact that Powell does not punctuate the end of each line. As one line ends and another begins, there is a momentary sense of continuity in which the reader feels as if the two lines are joined in some artistic grand scheme; and sometimes they are, but typically they are not. Powell brilliantly dances around line breaks, sometimes almost carrying on a thought,––“perhaps the same grit finished us / drawing us together…”  (49) – but usually choosing to only suggest the continuation of a thought  –“who’s doing all this hair? this lack of hair? at the salon we flip through oncology today / some looks we look forward to looking back on…” (48).

Reading through the poems in Tea, there is a sense of humor that seems to belie a book whose first section is composed of elegies for men taken by AIDS from Powell’s life. Powell makes references to disco divas and cartoon curses, Batman and Robin and The Exorcist, and even turns the sound of a certain derogatory epithet into a made-up word: “[admission: I am a phag: afflicted with phagophagia]” (22).  (Phagophagia essentially meaning “eating eating.”) He works in numerous references to the 70s discotheque scene and gay culture, and in doing so paints a picture rife with movement, sex, and life. Yet for all of that sound and light, there is always an undercurrent of death: “the city is dying to be stylish” (48); “into the reliquary of my mattress” (20); “all of your best composing is lament” (57). Still, Powell never allows his poetry to stay under the influence of death for too long: “say amen somebody. the pews are hickory-hard I’m sick of sitting” (65).

Powell’s word selection is particularly important in accomplishing all of the things I have discussed so far. He has a gift for choosing just the right word which will convey a multitude of things at once. This is portrayed to great effect in the title of the book and its individual sections. Tea, aside from being a delicious beverage to be served hot or cold, morning or night, is a term once used in gay culture to mean “gossip.” Now it is more commonly used among drag queens, often abbreviated to simply “t” as in “what’s the t?” (or “what’s the talk of the town?”). “Tea Leaves,” the first, elegiac section of Tea, employs the dual-meaning of “leaves” as both a plant leaf and the action of leaving (as in death); “Spilling Tea” is a rather gossipy section of poetry; and “Tea Rooms” is full of sexual encounters and general sexuality (tea rooms were places where men would meet for sex). In this way, the initially simple title of the book carries so many meanings, all of which are explored and portrayed by the poetry within the leaves of this book.

In the end, Tea is a stunningly beautiful portrayal of personal experiences, seasoned with death, love, life, joy, and motion, and always presented with a twist of humor. It is (as many books of poetry are) a journey, though not necessarily presented in chronological order. Rather, it is a journey of the mind, a journey which D.A. Powell embarked on in order to recognize where he has been and where he was at time the book was compiled. In his own words: “This is how I came to put the elegies at the front of the book. I rise out of ashes. To survive is an astonishing gift. The price of that gift is memory,” (xiii). And we as readers are glad to pay that price with him, for just as the stories in these poems have shaped Powell’s life, so, too, can they shape our own.


Mercy

book by Lucille Clifton

annotation by Glenis Redmond

During my first semester at Warren Wilson College, I was assigned to write a pastoral poem — a poem that addresses the bucolic aspects of nature more specifically, rural life.  When I attempted to write one, I became incredibly distressed, because I could not keep my gaze solely on the positive aspects of nature. Clifton’s poem, “surely I am able to write poems,” in her book Mercy, helped me investigate my complex relationship with the natural environment. Clifton in ten swift lines imagistically demonstrates why the pastoral poem is so challenging for me. Clifton places the reader in the speaker’s mind.  The reader is given access to the speaker’s most private thoughts, while she is grappling with her ability to write poems about “celebrating grass.”   In this first line Clifton’s deft hand is busy layering the work and later on we will discover it is fraught with biblical allusions.  This feels disarming, as it is delivered in conversational plain-speech, yet Clifton is doing just the opposite. She applies tension in the first line as she queries “surely I am able to write poems / celebrating grass.”

The emotional tone of the poem is still quite warm and welcoming at this point, especially with the first word of the poem.  The word “surely” washes over us, with reassurance.  It is the first word that we encounter.   Generally the word conveys confidence, but in this instance coupled with the world should, the speaker declares too much, so we as readers sense doubt in this phrase and one can sense a but not too far off in the future.  At the same time, Clifton cleverly layers this line with a biblical allusion. I reminded of Psalms 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”    This texturing ignites the poem and signifies not only doubt, but also implication. Everyone is implicated:  the speaker, man and whole the racial history of America.  All of this is tied up in her inability to write a pastoral poem, but Clifton implicates God as well.  This taboo takes us to a precipice.   This implication asserts goodness and mercy does not follow the speaker, but unrelenting fear and hate does. As the House of God is nature, Clifton implies the speaker is not at home anywhere, for nature is everywhere.  Therefore, there is no escape.

In this poem, even when the reader thinks there is breath or rest, there is none.  Clifton employs her classic poetic signatures such as: sparse punctuation, no capitalization and plain-speech that lends to these moments of faux respite.   The casual and relaxed language only gives the reader the appearance of space or rest. Every tree, rock and person resonates as an obstacle between the slave and freedom.    This rest in the poem amplifies in a deceptive manner, by creating space that is only a figment.  This strategy allows Clifton to metaphorically cover much ground, by placing the reader in the middle of an antithetical pastoral poem rife with historical land mines.  One cannot step in this poem, without setting off a charge.  Clifton demonstrates what it is like for her to write a pastoral poem.    The enjambments in this poem create a breathless run-on experience disorienting the reader.  The reader starts with a seemingly harmless image of a person “celebrating grass,” then Clifton offers the opposite of celebration.  The reader finds themselves in the middle of mourning and fear in the most unassuming images such as: “the blue /in the sky, flowing green or red /and the waters lean against the / Chesapeake shore like a familiar.” Yet, the pacing and the lack of punctuation speed the poem up and lends to the foreboding imagery.

Clifton amplifies the imagery through personification.  Water leans against the shore.  This is a peculiar way to describe water.  As the reader goes in for a closer look, Clifton embodies The Middle Passage with this imagery. She creates lulls through repetition of the word surely in the poem.  Yet, this second surely is followed by the conjunction but which indicates a turn.  This turn ratchets up the temperature in the poem full blast.  The trees become personified too.  They “wave their knotted branches.”  She does not mention lynching in the poem, but allows the impression of the images to do that work. The “knotted branches” invoke pain. The waving connotes swinging and Billie Holiday’s, Strange Fruit comes into view, as the lyrics from this famous song come to mind, “black bodies hanging from the Poplar tree.”  The poem’s success is in its subtle impressionistic nature.  Clifton implicates without outright telling or pointing. The images bleed through layer after layer.   The last three lines of the poem, Clifton pressurizes by using the interrogative, why.

why
is there under the poem
always another poem?

I coined the term anti-pastoral after this poem as Clifton  addresses  the precarious relationship that many African-Americans have with nature.  She links the tree imagery to historical wounding, by weaving into the narrative, the weighted African-American plight. Though slavery is never mentioned, Clifton implies it through pressurized imagery alongside plain-speech.   Studying how she compresses has instructed me craft-wise.  Her spring-loaded approach creates the element of surprise, which allows the meaning to reverberate and create a haunting effect. She has inspired me to continue to search for ways to pressurize my poems, to create freshness and unpredictability without forsaking my narrative drive and understand how resisting a form, can be a powerful means in which to create.

Face

book by  Sherman Alexie 

annotation by Lisa Cheby

Alexie’s poetry is a hybrid of formal poetics and experimental genre bending compounded by the often-conflicted aesthetics of these various traditions.   In the guise of formal poetics, Alexie challenges the reader’s place in poetry and mocks almost all schools of poetry – reader response, biographical, confessional, historical, and formal.

Alexie divides his book into four sections.   The first section, “War Stories,” establishes conflicts to be woven throughout the text:  life versus death (“Avian Nights” and “The Father and Son Road Show”); fathers versus sons or old generations versus new; nature versus humans; whites versus Native Americans; Alexie versus his own histories.   In the second section, “Tuxedo with Eagle Feathers,” Alexie examines the multiplicity of cultures at his disposal as an artist and the multiplicity of worlds he must negotiate in asserting his identity.  The third section, “Size Matters,” moves into a celebration of mundane moments of humility.  The final section, “Ten Thousand Fathers,” gives us new and old mythologies of his origins as a poet.

The book declares war between the poet and critic, between the oppressor and the oppressed through a battle between formalism and experimentation.   Alexie appropriates the rules of form to undermine the history of literary domination by white men.   “War Stories” and “Vilify” are highly crafted formal poems dismantled and disrupted by extensive footnotes, a risky move, flirting with pretension and imitation (didn’t Eliot already challenge the folly of footnotes in “The Wasteland?”).  Alexie’s footnotes are commentary, digression, and political protest.  The reader must decide how to read the poem: straight through, or do we follow the trail away to find our way back to the base poem?  In “War Stories,” the first footnote undermines the speaker/poet’s authority, “He wasn’t really my uncle.  I lied” (18).  This footnote leads to another footnote to tell the true story, the truth of law, turning this poem about something akin to a bar fight into a dialogue with history.   Unlike Eliot’s footnotes that mock the self-referential nature of literature and academics, Alexie exploits allusion and exposes how poetry and literature often mask the stories that lie beneath.   While subverting dominant traditions, Alexie shows off his mastery of them:  the poem’s six tercets are matched by the six tercets of the numbered footnotes, which lead to a tercet of prose footnotes.   (Later it the book, he makes a similar move where the footnotes for a sonnet create a separate sonnet that adds commentary to the original sonnet.)   For Alexie, form is not just a tool; there is a deliberate link between form and content.   The form is a means for him to speak his truth in a world that wants to suppress his voice.   This forces me to examine how form functions for my poems and challenges me to see how form does not just add structure, but can actually subvert that from which it came.

Similarly, Alexie mixes formal verse with prose segments throughout the book.  In “Tuxedo with Eagle Feathers,” Alexie poignantly merges Native American storytelling with Western/American poetics.  The poem starts with a prose section whose mythic voice blurs the lines between truth and reality;  “Six years ago, or maybe it was eight or ten . . .” the speaker begins by inviting the audience to let go of the need for precision, a very western, formalist requirement (79).   Once the scene of the powwow is set, Alexie transitions into an English sonnet that recounts his encounter with a former bully.   At the end of the sonnet he relapses into expository prose to reflect on the lesson of this incident, the sonnet.  A pattern of dialogue between cultures and the two selves of the speaker is established between the prose and the sonnets.  The next sonnet focuses on another character that he must battle in his quest for identity.   He again uses the natural argument structure of the English sonnet to make the point that “It was all shoe goddamn texts / By all those damn dead white male and female writers / That first taught me how to be a fighter . . . ” (80).   Alexie resists the idea that his identity and power comes from only one culture; he claims the voice of both the Native Americans and western literary traditions.  To emphasize this unity of self, each sonnet and prose section is enjambed.  The next sonnet praises Dorothy Grant, who, through fashion, like Alexie through his poems, creates hybrids of Native American and mainstream expressions.   Interestingly, Alexie ends on a sonnet:  “This sonnet, like my reservation, keeps/ Its secrets hidden behind boundaries / That are simple and legal at first read . . . ” (81).   Though his prose seems audaciously honest and exposed, it is in the control and boundaries of the formal verse that Alexie reveals the more vulnerable, raw emotions and insights, like the quiet clarity after a storm of rage or grief, like the unspoken truth of every joke.   Likewise, the prose creates the mythic stories we create to explain our world, which may be just as true, or even “more impressive” than actual truth.   With constant play of language and story, the reader eventually gives up on the idea of absolute truth and autobiography or confession, is forced to meet the poem eye to eye, at face value, as we all want to be met in life.

There is much more to be extracted, for the writer, from Alexie’s Face:  the examination of his use vernacular, his depiction of the body (reminiscent of Olds), and his exploitation of the confessional voice.   Yet, for me, Alexie exemplifies how form can be used to serve the poem and the voice, rather than finding a poem or voice to serve a form.

The Moon Reflected Fire

book by Doug Anderson

annotation by Lauren Schmidt

This is by far one of the best books of poetry I have ever read. There are so many memorable moments in this text that after only one reading, I am able to quote some of the poems in here. Yes, the success of the book is partly a result of the book’s subject matter—the Vietnam War—but in an undertaking such as this, success becomes incredibly difficult. A poet runs the risk of sensationalizing or exploiting the horrors of war. A poet might be accused of being opportunistic or too singularly-focused. Anderson avoids these criticisms completely in this book. It is, as a result, a harrowing and heart-breaking portrait of a period in our history. I said of Tony Barnstone’s book Tongue of War that every American should read it: I would say that even more emphatically of The Moon Reflected Fire.

What I admire so much about this book is its honesty. The reality of the stories and people found here is startling and often hard to read. (I will admit to crying a few times.) But these moments are often balanced by the tender moments that reveal these characters’ humanity, most often in the form of regret, sorrow, and the suffering the speaker endures many years after the war is over. The book, therefore, is a complete scope of this terrible experience and is most appropriately dedicated to the soldiers on both sides of the fighting.

The first poem, “Night Ambush,” establishes the tone that runs throughout the book—emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. The book begins in medias res. Based on the details of the poem—“I have forgotten the why of everything. / I sense an indifference larger than anything/ I know. All that will remain of us/ is rusting metal disappearing in vines”—it is clear that this speaker has endured an awful lot by this point. Anderson has effectively conveyed the “indifference” that will permeate many of the poems to follow.

From the first poem, Anderson moves to “Infantry Assault”—a poem that gruesomely portrays an American solider killing a man who is already dead. The poem is more of a glimpse into the psyches of the soldiers at the scene—some of them rueful, some of them enjoying the carnage—rather than a narrative of a man doing something terrible. It examines the “why of everything”—“I thought maybe/ he was killing all the ones he’d missed.” The poem concludes on the haunting line, “how our bones knew what we’d done,” a motif that will resurface in many of these poems. The poet appears to be more concerned about expelling these stories through these poems as a way to free himself than gratuitously sensationalizing the horrors of war.

There are a number of poems in this collection that show the speaker’s humanity. One such poem, found in the first section, is “Purification.” Rather than condemn a speaker who admits to having a sexual encounter with a fifteen year-old Taiwanese mother, the reader pities him. Perhaps it is, in part, due to the fact that the sex is never really mentioned—only a moment where he tastes the young mother’s breast milk. However, I’d argue the reader’s sympathy comes from the fact that the speaker tells the story in such exhaustion and with such honesty, a reader cannot help but be moved by the poem’s final two lines: “I want to be this child’s child. / I will sleep for the first time in days.” Another poem that achieves this same sympathy is the first poem in the final section, “Rain.” The speaker admits to masturbating beneath his sheets as a way, perhaps, to feel human again, or relieve himself of all the angst he has stored during the war. It is a very real moment, one many poets might shy away from for fear that it is too human, too shameful. Even more remarkably is the presence of the nurse in the poem. We see her humanity as well.  Nowhere in the poem does it suggest that she’s disgusted, yet it is clear she knows what he’s doing behind her back. Her permission for him to be as vulnerable as he needs to be is a stunning moment in this book.

The quiet, tender poems in this book balance poems such as “Two Boys,” a narrative that details the efforts one of his fellow soldiers went to in order to shoot Vietnamese boys and the “wistful damn” at his failure. It’s no surprise that a poem like “We Sweat” comes immediately before it, because it is also one of those quietly brave poems. It details the speaker’s fear and his need to pray in a place where “the gods are not familiar. / Who knows what prayer provokes? …When you cannot scream, pray.”

The second and third sections are truly unexpected approaches to telling the stories of this war. The second part, in effect, explains the artist’s role in revealing the truth around him, no matter how difficult. He does this through the Spanish Romantic painter, Goya. The allusion to Goya achieves a few things. First, it demonstrates the parallels between the times these two artists expose in their work, thus showing that nothing changes. Second, Anderson reveals the need for books like this to be written and paintings like Goya’s to be painted. Finally, he illuminates the struggle of having to do it.

The third part of the book reveals the Vietnam War through the Trojan War and characters in Homer’s Iliad. By doing this, Anderson is again drawing parallels between not only these two wars, but all wars and all the horrors these men endure in fighting them. Poetically, these two sections break up the narrative that was established in the first section while continuing along the same themes. Though we are not reading about the war solely from the speaker’s perspective, we are engaged by the same obsessions we found in his voice.

The final section returns to that speaker to show what happens in the aftermath of war. In this section, there is recklessness, alcohol and drug use, fear, an inescapable haunting, and ultimately, redemption. His redemption stems from the hope that what he has done in writing this book has freed him and others who read it from the toxins of that war. (The Biblical note that precedes the entire collection is proof.) By book’s end, the speaker does not claim that he is cured of what he has seen and done, but that he will survive all he cannot purge.

This is truly a startling book in that it characterizes a certain consciousness for many men who survived this or any other war. Books like this are necessary to our own survival.

Goest

book by Cole Swensen
annotation by Kimberly Bredberg

Goest, the archaic second person singular form of go, really? What kind of title is this?
I’d say a poetic one.
This title is Rorschach.
I am set into motion reading the ink somewhere between the past and present.
Here, at least from a poetic point of view, associating the word “goest” conjures “ghost” and I am drawn in to the drama of the volume at hand.
Goest is at once a charge
to dig for the ethereal and
to bask in the translucent ghost we discover.

The volume is divided into three sections, a larger middle section bookended by white: Of White,
A History of the Incandescent,
On White.

I begin with an observation of titles. Each one an invitation, no, a hook. All that I appreciate about this poet might be drawn from these two pages alone. In fact, the combined titles almost (but not quite) read like a list poem: “The Girl Who Never Rained”/ “The Future of Sculpture”/ “The Exploration of Fuor-Spar” and on and on.

Of Whit and On White contain poems that mirror, substantiating the “bookend” effect: “White Cities” : “Razed Cities” and “Five Landscapes” : “Five Landscapes” and “The Future of Sculpture” : “The Future of White” add sculptural shaping to the volume.
The middle section of poems, A History of the Incandescent, delves into the shine that illuminates, tricks the eye, reflects, and, into that which is core. As with other volumes of Swensen’s work, I find that these poems, on the surface, appear arcane, standoffish, even a bit snobby. But surface judgment is always a bad idea. The reader unwilling to work for engagement will surely be deprived of a treasure—rich language, creative syntax, sound, and image—gold worth the dig. There is much to glean from Swenson who makes precise intellectual observations, information that she then filters through the mesh of imagination.
A favorite poem in this volume, “Lacrymae Vitrae,” illustrates what I appreciate about Cole Swensen’s work in general. The poem is a terrific bundle of associations, one that highlights a dusty connection between humanity in the 21st century and humanity in the 18th century. Molten glass dripped into water produces a glass teardrop that is, on one end ridiculously strong and on the other ridiculously fragile. “scientists will note/we, who were all home at the time,/bursting into finest dust/if even the smallest fragment is broken off.” The analogy illuminates the ghost, challenges me to think and to act… to goest. This poem is at once physicist/psychologist/apothecary.
These poems honor the space on the page.

space is breath,

candescence,

chant.

Space is musicality,

is an ostinato

that moves weighted,

equalizes, dances with sound

is steadiness, familiarity.

Non-conventional punctuation, unusual point of view, the abandoned dependant clause, wandering tense, and seamless transitions from the objective to the symbolic are the qualities that beg me to engage with the world of these poems.

Swensen is a poet who does not shy from the substance of past, present, and future history or from the realm beyond what is seen. And she is a poet who challenges this poet to risk.

Perhaps what captures my attention above all is the palpable aromatic of these poems. I find myself isolating, steeping in the sonic: “scenes…mistaken for sails”, “back to the weal (the sun peeled) to a line, which is thin, to a dim/Give it back to him” and “and down into the spiral of our riches/still reign: falots or great pitch lit/at the crossroads/—and thus were we followed/through a city of thieves—which.”

These poems are
contemplative, philosophical,
painterly and poetic
Goest,
if you dare…

The Black Back-Ups

book by Kate Rushin’s

annotation by Lisa McCool-Grime

Although I’d read this book once before and was moved by its content, I happily returned to it as part of a larger craft-oriented study on the impact of the short line. Rushin wildly varies line length throughout the book and within single poems, but in all cases, she seems to be using what June Jordan calls “vertical rhythm”. In June Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint, June Jordan includes an essay discussing the manipulation of syntax and musical devices around the line break in order to create a vertical rhythm that either rushes the reader down the page or slows the reader at the end of each line. As an example of the latter, at the ninth stanza of The Bridge Poem, Rushin moves from longer but varied lines to a consistently short line:

Sick
Of having
To remind you
To breathe
Before you
Suffocate
Your own
Fool self

The pattern of rhythm established by the earlier longer lines gives these short lines in stanza nine a lot of space. I feel indignant, pregnant pauses at each break. The poem has built to this peak by using average-length and long lines to list all the things the narrator is sick of and here, at the ninth stanza, she is out of breath and out of patience with her listing. It is worth noting that, where she can, Rushin uses the line break in this poem to work with syntactical structure. Since the way we receive information is impacted by how our language organizes itself, working with the syntactical structure allows us as readers (or listeners) to pause without confusion. So the emotional force of the poem paired with short lines broken naturally with syntax, slows a reader down. In contrast Rushin does the exact opposite of this in other poems to create a fast pace, breaking against the syntax. In “Family Tree”, she breaks after prepositions: “A long line of / Uppity Irate Black Women” and “A coupon and one dollar to / Nabisco Shredded Wheat”. In these cases, the break against the syntax naturally rushes readers along because we want to finish the thought begun with the phrase. What I find particularly interesting is that I can hear these breaks as a unit of breath for a performance poet. In fact, it is typical for performance poets to affect a pause after a conjunction or a preposition. I now see that the consequences are similar—both keep the audience anxious for what comes next. The reader quickly reads on. The listener anxiously listens for the next line. This is particularly important for slam poets whose scores are related to how engaged the listener is during the performance. Choosing to break against natural syntax helps to up the suspense level of the work.

Whether slowing down or speeding up, Rushin’s carefully controlled, carefully varied dance between line break and syntax creates that vertical rhythm.

The Dance Most of All

book by Jack Gilbert

annotation by Stephanie Glazier

I’ve always been slightly vexed, particularly so coming out of the Translation Seminar, by non-English speaking (writing) poets’ vagueness. Latin American writers especially can speak of “the grief of lovers,” as Gilbert does in his poem, “Infectious,” and I’m affected by that. It’s charm works on me. (Gilbert is writing about an experience he had in Italy. I understand that he’s spend the last few decades in Greece.) This has bewildered me so because it’s precisely the opposite advice one receives in a writing workshop—specificity, concrete, clear images, the young poet is told. Today, it seems to me that one reason that foreign poets ‘get away’ with speaking generally, especially about emotion, is that other cultures are more concerned (and this is evident in the semantics of other languages) with the collective identity and experience. American poetry is much more interested in the particularity of identity and experience—individualism. It’s a matter of readership. Reading work in translation, I’m convinced by such generalities because they’re voracious to the experience of that poet’s cultural context and to her ideal reader.

The last poem in the collection, titled “We are the Junction,” employs one of Gilbert’s principal tricks—really weird syntax. Jenny Factor recently submitted to me the fact that each time I read a new arrangement of words, each time I’m surprised by syntax, a new synapse forms in my brain. When I read Gilbert and Matthea Harvey’s work—I have this feeling of being washed over. “When body touches heart/ they together are the moon/ in the silently falling snow/ over there” (56).  So much so that when I read this, when he tells me that our whole beings are the only vehicles we have to understanding, I believe him because he’s telling me in a way I’ve not heard it before: “Which is truth/ exceeding, is the residence,/ the sanctified, is the secret/ closet and passes into glory.”