Summing Up

How long does any How or Now survive?
Anyhow lasts as long as you like, I think,
but Now disappears in front of our eyes.
It comes and goes so quickly we are surprised.
We thought we’d have more time to work and play
and love, to raise children or puppy dogs,
to see our friends and write our books.
But now Now is slipping off, sliding
down a hill, turning left and out of sight.
No Now ever returns. At the same time,
It is true that all Nows are new.

Review of The Borrowed World: Poems by Emily Leithauser

Review of The Borrowed World: Poems
by Emily Leithauser. Foreword by Michael Palma.
Able Muse Press, 2016. 65pp.

The Borrowed World won the 2015 Able Muse Book Award. The competition is run by Alexander Pepple, who is smart and serious and curates Able Muse Press. The Foreword, contributed by Michael Palma, himself a significant poet and translator, offers readers a number of insights into Leithauser’s début work. My reference to “Leithauser’s début work” may puzzle some readers of Brad Leithauser and his ex-wife, Mary Jo Salter, but only until they figure out that Emily is their daughter. It’s not a surprise, then, that The Borrowed World is polished, thoughtful, cagey, and a book you will want to read and then read a second time: she has inherited their talent.

Boy in Syria

A child should be the future, not the past.

Six. . .. eight at most.
His face a flower beginning to bloom.
A boy beginning to wake to truth.

The truth in this place is sarin gas.
It paralyzes the diaphragm,

is a nerve agent that makes it impossible for people to breathe.

They tear off their clothes.
They claw at the air.
They are being strangled by something they cannot see.

The struggle wrenches them into grotesque positions
like origami.

The soul watches in disbelief
as body is stripped from it.

The Numbers

The numbers make no sense. We have to start
with one. One Jew. One Communist. One Pole
or homosexual or gypsy or sick
or physically or mentally challenged citizen.
Or sometimes two, as in the case of twins
subjected to experiments no sane
experimenter could conceive. And then
the numbers begin to multiply: Jehovah
Witnesses, political dissenters,
every one who got in the way of a Nazi,
the Nazis being, of course, everywhere.

Sure, we’ve tried to add the numbers up
but always someone is missing, the infant slung
against an electric fence, the child who walked
away from a forced march but died of the cold
in a barn or field. You try adding them up.