By James Longenbach
From Second Draft:
What folks learn
I realized late.
My soul perched
On an olive branch
Waving its plumes. I said
I aspire to
I want you,
Said my soul,
If you’re telling the truth.
Draft of a Letter is a booklet approximately belief—not trust within the unknowable yet trust in what turns out bewilderingly simple. puzzling over the our bodies we inhabit, the phrases we converse, those poems notice infinitude within the such a lot typical locations. The revelation is disorienting and, accordingly, those poems seek advice from themselves, revise themselves, fashioning a discussion among self and soul that opens outward to incorporate different voices, fanatics, young children, angels, and ghosts. For James Longenbach, good distance makes the messages we ship sweeter. To be divided from ourselves isn't to be by myself. “If the dominion is within the sky,” says the physique to the soul, “Birds gets there prior to you.” “In time,” says the awakening soul, “I loved my moment / physique greater / Than the first.” To stay, those poems insist, is to come up on a daily basis to the unusual beauty of the folks and locations we notion we knew top. Draft of a Letter is an unsettled and radiant paradiso, imagined within the death-shadowed, birth-haunted heart of an extended life.
Praise for Fleet River
“A sensibility this cogent, this sophisticated and austere is unusual; even rarer is its evidence that poetry nonetheless flows via all issues and transforms all issues within the process.”—Carol Muske-Dukes, la instances publication Review
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Extra info for Draft of a letter
One lifted Fingers to his lips. Until he left for his own country By a different route He’d never worn These boxers, slightly Elastic, little legs. I am wounded, I want to leave this place— • 21 • 5. When Jonah fled to Tarshish From the presence of the Lord The Lord sent out a tempest. The mariners were afraid. Arise, go. They threw the contents of the ship into the sea While Jonah slept. 22 • • 6. When he came back He found a cup of instant on the counter. Laundry glistening with rain. The sunken harbor, Boats lined Belly-up along the quay— A black Mercedes Squeezed him to the railing But he didn’t flinch; he chewed An apple to the core, then Dropped it, Watched it fall.
How could they crave daylight? I reached up to embrace her Three times. Nothing but air. The root of need Is plenitude, she said. Then she embraced My head and pulled me under. 30 • • Swallowtail 1. Leaves, a pattern Of stars between overlapping Locust and pine— I woke up on a gurney Covered with wires. I was breathing But my chest was burned: seconds Creeping past me in a row. Organs, arteries, thousands of intersecting parts. Your hair was cut shorter then. In time, I liked my second Body better Than the first.
Light between the branches Flickering, but sure. Who am I, moving towards you? Who are you? • 33 • II Reason and Sorrow Now that you’re here, Happy with the sprig of mint In your aperitif, I’m happy too. Remember How I rubbed your feet with oil? My house is too big. Although I led you across Verdant meadows, Undulant seas, It couldn’t have been more difficult. I wanted to get us lost. My stomach is full. I never left home. Walking together Side by side, The mind more stilled than ever In its little nest— How can I be happy if The one who suffers isn’t me?
Draft of a letter by James Longenbach