Crossing Over by Priscilla Long ($17.95 U. New Mexico)
Crossing Over is a collection of intelligent and deeply felt poems, often featuring the bridge as metaphor and as fact. Ms. Long, a Seattle-ite, has a background in natural science and Northwest history, both of which ground her poetry. The book has at its core Ms. Long’s experience of her close sister’s suicide, a shocking loss she responds to at times with delicate lyricism and at other times with a nearly clinically directness. Throughout the book Ms. Long writes as someone who has learned loss is central to the human context and as someone ever aware of there being a bridge to a further place.
Selah Creek Bridge, Interstate 82, Yakima County, Washington
Concrete arches rise
two crescent moons
above the greasewood gorge.
Twin pikes, eastbound, westbound,
ride the great moonbacks
over sagebrush, bitterbrush.
They crawl with specks of trucks.
The arches, archaic,
mimic ruins of Roman roads.
they lift god-trails
to Rattlesnake Ridge.
Evening throws its shadow curves
on fossil hills, on bobcat and badger,
burrowing owl and balsamroot.
Now let the sun begin
her oath of hawks.
Chord by Rick Barot ($14.95 Sarabande)
Think of the musical meaning for chord, the pulling together of tones into an evocative whole, and you have a sense of Rick Barot’s fine third book. This collection features beautifully realized poems describing the physical world as it directly and metaphorically touches Mr. Barot’s life. His elegant descriptions could be poetry enough, but he gracefully moves below the surface to explore emotional depths and historic truths. These poems investigate time and memory and language’s uncertain capacity to encompass them in a voice of measured restraint, the kind of restraint that clearly conveys great feeling taking place.
“Child Holding Potato”
When my sister got her diagnosis,
I bought an airplane ticket
but to another city, where I stared
at paintings that seemed victorious
in their relation to time.
The beech from two hundred years ago,
its trunk a palatte of mud
and gilt. The man with olive-black
gloves, the sky behind him
a glacier of blue light. In their calm
landscapes, the saints. Still dripping,
the gardens dew, the bouquets.
Holding the rough gold orb
of a potato, the Child cradled
by the glowing Madonna. Then,
the paintings I looked at the longest:
the bowls of plums and peaches,
the lemons, the pomegranates,
like red earths. In my mouth,
the raw starch. In my mouth, the dirt.