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Bradley Harrison

Malachi Black – Storm Toward Morning

Copper Canyon 2014

Page Length: 75

Retail: $15


Like the greatest formal poets, Malachi Black writes in shapes. Received forms sculpt the shape of a poem by the measure of their recursiveness: the manner in which the poem moves forward and back simultaneously. In a traditional sonnet, for example, as the speaker develops an idea, a scene, or a narrative (an argument), she also, at the end of each line, creates sonic consonance with that which precedes and/or follows. The result is the sensation of forward movement through recurring patterns and the modulation of poetic effects (in this example the effect in question is end-rhyme, though the same argument can be made for poetic features like anaphora, syntactic parallelism, and other features that can echo through a poem). This recursiveness of the sonnet is heightened and dramatized when the poem looks back on itself in its volta: the previous content is artfully repeated and thereby modified, and the result is something like epiphany. The extent to which a poem establishes and then resists its form can be understood as its poetic “shape.”


Malachi Black’s poetic shapes are both elegantly discursive and dizzyingly circular: spiritual yearning in swirling eddies of sonic clusters. Storm Toward Morning, Black’s first full-length collection, relies heavily on received forms (most notably the sonnet) to present an aesthetic argument that is equal parts familiar and strange, and the result is palpably beautiful tension: between the traditional and contemporary; between first-book energy and technical virtuosity; and, most importantly, between faith and doubt: a spiritual disquiet masterfully imbued into content and form.


Black possesses an astounding command of prosody, and like a world-class athlete, he moves through his lines without wasted motion.


“Rocking in my midnight robe, I am

alive and in an eye again beside


my kind insomniac, my phantom

glass, companion and my only bride:


this little window giving little shine

to something. What I see I keep


alive. I name the species, I define

the lurch and glimmer, sweep and pry


of eyes against the faint-reflecting glass

by what they can and what I can’t


quite grasp…” (Against the Glass)


While this sonnet is written in iambic pentameter, Black opens with a procession of trochees that accentuates the quietly desperate state of the speaker. Notably, the opening line ends with a kind of existential release: “I am,” which both posits a stability of self and shifts the poem into its natural meter, which wraps itself around the line in a series of enjambments that create a cascade effect as we progress down the page: “I am / alive”; “my phantom / glass”; “What I see I keep // alive.” But as we course through the couplets, we are returned to previously introduced sounds. At times this consonance is semantically pleasing: “I am / alive;” “my only bride;” “I keep / alive.” However, at other times the effect is something more unnerved: a kind of haunting: “phantom” and “companion;” “faint” and “can’t.”


Black’s formal recursiveness is a microcosm of his poems’ engagement with poetic tradition: there is something undeniably traditional in Black’s prosody, yet that quality is cantilevered by Black’s associative ingenuity and contemporary diction, concerns, and general aesthetic orientation. In this regard, there are echoes of James Merrill, Robert Pinsky, Frederick Seidel, Thom Gunn, and the very best of Philip Larkin. And yet: the heart of Black’s formalism, which is, in the end, utterly Psalmic, seems to be in the spirit of the Metaphysical poets of the 17th century: John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw and Andrew Marvell, to name a few. These poets sought in their verse an ascent into the mysteries of the divine—mysteries rarely resolved but left open like metaphysical wounds that are simultaneously fatal and freeing. It was this quality, their articulation of spiritual brokenness in formal precision, that T.S. Eliot found utterly compelling, which led him to not only champion these once-derided poets into their still-standing critical favor, but eventually state that devotional poetry is actually poetry in its highest form.


Black’s poems are devotional in this regard: rather than proclaim “truths” about the divine, they are poems written toward the possibility of God. This postmodern faith is most prominently displayed in the second section of Storm Toward Morning, a crown of sonnets that testifies to both the undeniable reality of the sacred and its impossible position within the profanity of human living.


“There is no end: what has come will come again

will come again: and then distend: and then

and then: and then again: there is no end


to origin and and: there is again

and born again: there is the forming and:

the midnight curling into morning and


the glory and again: there is no end:” (Vigils)


Rarely are form and content so seamlessly transposed: as in Heaven so on Earth; so too in the poem. “There is no end” is both a joyful declaration and an ominous lament: to be “born again” in poetic rapture is to see the infinitude of experience within the finite moment. Or, as Blake famously wrote: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour” And yet: to be born is to be subjected to death. Incessant birth yields incessant death, and this fact yields profound ambivalence in Black’s poetry, which hiccups its rebirths and stutters its praise. In this, we are reminded inseparability of beauty and death, a tension that cannot (and must not) be resolved.


This resistance to resolution is Black’s most unique aesthetic move. While it has become a hallmark of postmodern poetics to parade this resistance, Black’s angle is fresh because of the shape of his formalism. Received forms convey implicit order: they are teleologically determined from the outset. Black’s sonnets are both elegant and desperate—their formal ruptures proceed out of existential doubt.


“Once more the bright blade of a morning breeze

glides almost too easily through me,


and from the scuffle I’ve been sutured to

some flap of me is freed: I am severed


like a simile: an honest tenor

trembling toward the vehicle I mean


to be: a blackbird licking half-notes

from the muscled, sap-damp branches


of the sugar maple tree… though I am still

a part of any part of every particle


of me, though I’ll be softly reconstructed

by the white gloves of metonymy,


I grieve: there is no feeling in a cut

that doesn’t heal a bit too much.” (This Gentle Surgery)


Black oscillates between formal precision and something like an artful wobble: by embracing imperfection in the presence of technical virtuosity, he dramatizes spiritual poverty and celebrates the fallibility that constitutes the essential distinction between the human and the divine.



Blueberry Elizabeth Morningsnow – Whale in the Woods

Rescue Press 2012

Page Length: 73

Retail: $14


Blueberry Elizabeth’s Morningsnow’s debut collection, Whale in the Woods, is mythic and mammoth. Winner of the 2011 Black Box Poetry Prize from Rescue Press, Morningsnow gives us a vision that is obsessive, oddly spiritual, and urgently beautiful. The result is one of the freshest, most original spiritual voices in Contemporary American Poetry.


At the core of Morningsnow’s poetics is the fusion of the elemental and the spiritual. Many of these poems center on large, recurrent, elemental themes and symbols: the weather, the moon, stars, fields, bodies (human, aquatic, celestial), dust, mountains, and copious amounts of light. Atop these Morningsnow layers a spiritual valence that ambiguously and provocatively begs the question of how imbued these elements might be with spiritual forces: ghosts, god, breath, and death.


“Ghost trapped in a cloud:

it’s not my fault when a fish drowns
look at me lakestorming
I’m dissolving all the time

A cloud is a crowd, a crowd

My brains drip onto flowers, roofs, absences, whatever

Yet I’m not part of the external and its edges

I even help this lake

But the lake’s without humility

And forgets that there’s a middlest, finest hole

An internal to everything”

(“Ghosts Are Nature”)


The title of the poem makes a bold metaphysical claim: “Ghosts Are Nature.” If this collection’s sprawling metaphysics could be summarized by a single statement this would surely be it. It would follow naturally, then, that our experience of the natural world would be haunting—that beauty would be wound tightly with terror—that the known would merely float in the greater expanse of the ominous unknown.


Morningsnow’s poetic forms follow this animism: often presented in bursts of lyrical vapor, evanescent and inevitable, voices emerge from the previously inanimate. We find the landscape surrounding the human milieu to be fully alive and capable of speech, and the words being spoken are equal parts human and oddly-something-else.

The following is spoken by “The Lake,” a recurring character:


“Can I kill as well as die many times? Yes. Can I live as well as get born forever? Yes.


I am the bone that never stops softening. Yes. There are swellings and

balloonings inside me. Yes and I am chunked up with ice.


I’m the Lake and a poem.


My consciousness goes grey and I turn to sleep in my center for I am not sorry, as you are, that everything constantly changes.

Look how I am. I have drowned you with my swillings. Look how I carry you into silence. Do you feel that words are true. I am ragged, I am ragged. I am ragged.

Breath is the only thing that’s fair.”


(“Of Clearness and Birth”)


However clever many of Morningsnow’s poetic constructions can be, she is also, at times, stunningly forthright. In very basic terms she makes a very large claim: the poem is not human. While it is composed of language, the most human phenomenon in the universe, the poem is more a coalescence than a willed construction: it is a lake that collects its contents passively and then reflects to its reader what may be momentarily looked into before it changes irrevocably.


The resulting effect is a brilliant juxtaposition of clarity and obscurity: a voice that phases between registers, scenes, and characters, yet never hides behind those devices for fear of what they might reveal. Accordingly: this is a poetry of revelation and discovery, a kind of poetic animism that seeks to divine the sacred from within the world’s (and the mind’s) many strange forms. Its vision is offered with a ferocity that testifies to the unadulterated violence of beauty.


“Remember when I killed my own brother       turning him suddenly and stabbing

him …

then, chopping up his various parts and scattering them in the path of our father’s warriors?

how is it, we wonder, that people are bound to each other

remember when I was darkening and widening                like a river

tearing its throat out in the sea”




While some poets may opt for highly-sanitized creation-symbols such as the epiphanic sunrise or beatific copulation, the creative center of Morningsnow’s universe is thoroughly visceral: the image is of perpetual birth, and where there is birth there is afterbirth, not to mention the looming inevitability of death.


“And you are dead if you’re reading this because I have bursted on you and

killed you out of this and beyond dissolvings.

And because I have seen

trembling transparent eyes

rippling eyes

eyes of dying

there are pure psychic places

inside my self

inside my drain

inside my up and down

Because I have no such thing as desire or guilt

poems do not exist

they are merely:

discardings of skin (something you float in)


(“How the Lake Learned English”)


Morningsnow’s spiritual-poetic animism is preceded in the 20th-century Western canon primarily by poets influenced by the East: Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, and Allen Ginsberg, each of whom refuse to distinguish between the earthly and the heavenly: the profane and the sacred.


However, Morningsnow’s approach to this dissolution (the central action of her poetics is captured by the verb “to dissolve”) is entirely different from these quasi-mystics. While the destination of her poetic orientation is similar, Morningsnow’s path couldn’t be more distinct. Indeed: her path is distinct because the starting point is her own. Whereas Snyder, Merwin, and Ginsberg bring to the poetic line the simulated weightlessness of meditation, Morningsnow is thoroughly Western in her rough pilgrimage through a world of terrible, dangerous beauty. Accordingly, an aesthetic kin can be found in the ragged Deep Imagism of Robert Bly and James Wright, not to mention the epistemically-obsessed naturalism of Jorie Graham, Louise Gluck, Forest Gander, and Susan Howe. Graham is, I think, a particularly interesting comparison, as Morningsnow, too, is concerned with the ever-shifting lines distinguishing the known from the unknown from the unknowable.


Whale in the Woods is equal parts shocking and lovely: its poetic machinations are diverse and unpredictable, and its dream is utterly unique. Blueberry Elizabeth Morningsnow presents us with a fiercely singular spiritual vision and a world entirely her own: dissolving; unstable; filled with bright and strange debris; uncompromising; necessary; fleetingly salvific.

Christopher Gilbert – Turning into Dwelling

Graywolf Poetry Re/View Series 2015

Page Length: 187

Retail: $16


“Who is this Christopher Gilbert and why am I only just hearing about him?”

This is the question Terrance Hayes asks at the beginning of and throughout his Introduction to Turning into Dwelling, the collection most recently published by Graywolf’s Poetry Re/View Series. It’s a simple question with a few answers. Most of the answers, though, only produce more and larger questions.

The question, of course, is really two questions. The first is relatively easy to answer: Christopher Gilbert was a poet born in 1949 in Birmingham, Alabama, who then died in 2007 after a twenty-year battle with polycystic kidney disease. The only book he published during his lifetime was Across the Mutual Landscape, winner of the 1983 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. A student and then friend of Etheridge Knight, Gilbert was an active member of the American Poetry community through the late-70s and 80s, and received a number of distinctions for his work including an NEA Fellowship in 1986.

The second question, though, is probably impossible to answer. I only heard about him a couple months ago, and there’s a pretty good chance you’re hearing his name now for the first time. Why? Well, one answer to the question is that he only published one book during his lifetime. In the world of American Poetry, it is no small accomplishment to publish a book of poems, and this is especially true when that book wins a prestigious first book prize and attracts, over the years, a considerable following. Across the Mutual Landscape is as promising a debut as one could hope to find from an up-and-coming poet: a bit uneven, as first books are expected and allowed to be, but brilliant, fierce, extraordinarily intelligent, and, most importantly: wrought from an original voice packed with surprising turns of syntax, unexpected grammatical tinkering, and sharp diction stretched across the page in unique and strange constellations. Readers in the mid-80s would have been delighted with the collection and, I would imagine, anxiously anticipated Gilbert’s follow-up.

But this is where the story gets muddy, and the question of why we’d never heard of him until now becomes a bit sobering: for the remainder of his life (over twenty years) Gilbert never published another collection. Why not? Was Gilbert, like James Tate and Anthony Hecht, a bit overcome by the success of his first collection, which became something like a creative burden even as it initiated a rather promising professional trajectory? It seems plausible to me that if Christopher Gilbert had continued publishing books he would have been rendered ineligible for the extraordinary Graywolf Re/View Series that brings Turning into Dwelling back into the American Poetry mainstream.

The series, edited by Mark Doty, is four books into a noble and necessary mission to:

“Bring essential books of contemporary American poetry back into the light of print. Each volume—chosen by series editor Mark Doty—is introduced by a poet who comes to the work with a passionate admiration. The Graywolf Poetry Re/View Series offers all-but-lost masterworks of recent American poetry to a new generation of readers.” (quoted from the Graywolf website)

Gilbert is hardly the only poet to have published a single, successful book of poems before receding into the backdrop of the poetry world. The Re/View Series is brilliantly conceived and urgently needed in an American Poetry landscape increasingly crowded by unknown up-and-comers. The multitude of voices we find in our current climate is not something to bemoan: far from it! Like other artistic forms adapting to the Internet age of inexpensive publication and decentralized avenues of promotion, American Poetry has never been more diverse in terms of whose voices get heard and how. Certainly this is something to celebrate. But it comes at a price: because the traditional “gate-keeper” roles have been radically undercut, we have more poets writing and publishing poems than ever before, which leaves the critic/reader with simply too many books to read with any reasonable degree of “authority” regarding what’s “out there.” Whether this was ever actually true or not, the perception is that, at one point in American literary history, a critic could cleanly distinguish the truly great from the rest, made possible only by that critic’s access to “the rest.” But today, “the rest” is astoundingly diverse and overwhelming in volume, and anyone who claims to have an adequate handle on the breadth of contemporary American poetry is frankly full of shit.

What makes the Graywolf Re/View Series so necessary is its response to this problem with an honest (if implied) admission: sometimes the great ones fall through the cracks. Though we tell ourselves that, with time, the cream rises to the top, the contemporary catalogue might suggest otherwise. Sometimes it takes tremendous effort to raise the cream to where it rightfully belongs: at the center of our attention.

Turning into Dwelling is an astounding book not just because of the story of its re-collection, but how it, page-by-page, sequences the DNA underlying the question of why we don’t yet know the name Christopher Gilbert. Turning into Dwelling is not one collection of poems, it is two: first, a re-issue of Across the Mutual Landscape; and then a previously unpublished manuscript compiled posthumously by Gilbert’s friends: Barbara Morin, Fran Quinn and Mary Fell. While the poems cannot ultimately answer the biographical question regarding Gilbert’s relative obscurity, they do provide a fascinating look into the mind of a poet whose aesthetic very clearly evolved after his initial publishing success.

Masterfully edited by Quinn and Fell, the second manuscript, Chris Gilbert: An Improvisation (Music of the Striving That Was There) is decidedly better than the first. To lean on a tired but too-perfect-to-pass-up metaphor: in the first book we see Gilbert mastering the scales of late-20th century lyric poetry; in the second, Gilbert deconstructs those scales like Charlie Parker, the result of which is a poetic texture modeled on bebop, in which the melody is often presented and then turned inside out acrobatically with odd connective tissue and explosive unpredictability.


“That that that all day the vulture overhead was

screeching at in long resignation like naming

something not happened but always here

down here where dusk has begun covering

everything is even more a mystery,

even more a place whose passages deepening

lead to a way beyond testament tonight,

tonight after all day talking those small talk

things till talk was just a loud grasping

without any reaching, till what came forth

was the risk when the tongue goes random and

finally resorts to regarding the world as ‘whatever.’” (Getting Over There)


For Gilbert, the “melody” is generally a presentation of self. While some may lump his poetry into the increasingly vague category of “identity politics,” Gilbert’s take on the question of identity is highly intellectually engaged, specifically with the question of linguistic identity. When Gilbert essentially left American Poetry during the nineties and 2000s, he worked as a psychotherapist and a professor of psychology. This expertise is clearly present in Gilbert’s poems written during that time.


“Because it is the route that is the work

you could take the world itself to mean

yourself. Into these hills you’ve taken to

like the present, you could take place and be one

with the subject of your feeling arising

before you. The way the Queen’s lace sways

could be an indication of your breath

coming and going. As if an outline for time

itself, here I am stepping forth as an instance

walking the mountain road to the hilltop where

around the bend I’ll hear someone working

on the house the frame of whose part—the material

and the aesthetic and their perishing—linked

together will stand for history.” (Tourist)


Reading this poetry requires a diligent obedience to the unfolding syntax of complicated, systematic thought. It is highly, though not prohibitively, philosophical. The figures that arise from Gilbert’s late poems are neither neat syllogisms nor clean delineations of a unified self: they are self-interrogations, not merely of the author or the “speaker” of the poem, but of the very linguistic substance out of which selves are constructed. This linguistic self-consciousness is not only radiantly postmodern, but it fuses the language-as-object conviction of Objectivists like Lorine Niedecker and George Oppen with the communal, lyrical spirit of the black community first brought into the American mainstream by the pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance and the countless schools and movements that have worked in their wake. It should come as no surprise, then, to find so much jazz in Gilbert’s line.

Music in this tradition is both a means of mourning and celebration; it unites individuals who have been outcast by society—people who are themselves a cluster of fragments. For Gilbert, music is the ultimate metaphor not only for the poetic project, but, perhaps more urgently: the human self, which is a cluster of chaoses out of which certain harmonies may arise. The song is self: an ephemeral container that can, through formal repetition and sheer emotive will, produce unity and transcendence. Perhaps the most uninhibited articulation of this music is the following, which concludes the second manuscript’s title poem, the scene of which is a hospital room after receiving a kidney transplant.


“The IV unit with my name and directions for my care

taped to the top will indicate I am. The ID bracelet

I’ve been wearing since I got here will say for me,

‘I am.’ The scar the surgeon left as a signature

on my belly’s right side will say, ‘I am.’ I am

I feel a gathering possibility passing from temporary

articulation to articulation the way the horizon

arises in the sun as a series of evident illuminations

while the earth spins clockwise toward futurity.

When the time comes I’ll rise and say, ‘I am.’

I’ll gather all my questions, step into their midst

and say, ‘I am.’ I am I am.” (Chris Gilbert: An Improvisation)


“Who is this Christopher Gilbert and why am I only just hearing about him?”


Christopher Gilbert is a breathtaking poet who, for reasons not entirely clear, most of us have never heard of. It seems that his genius was unappreciated during his lifetime, which is sad. Thank god for Terrance Hayes, Mark Doty, Graywolf Press, and the Re/View Series for bringing his work back into circulation. Thank god for Barbara Morin, Fran Quinn and Mary Fell, who recognized in Gilbert’s unpublished poems a singular poetics that lay obscurely dormant for far too long. In an increasingly crowded poetry world, it is tragically too common for a brilliant and original voice to go unheard. Thank god, in the case of Christopher Gilbert, at least, that voice is singing again.

Russell Dillon – Eternal Patrol

Forklift Books 2013

Page Length: 82

Retail: $15


There was something nearly traceable

within us, horse-like and holy.

Without this field, there would be

an unnamed vacancy between trees.

Here: A photograph where your face

is obscured by blurring snowflakes.

Gloam-lensed, a moment before

inviting me into your papier-mache home.

Maddening how, in this home, in this storm,

I fear most the lightning and not the rain,

the improbable over the certain. A sound

from the map room: mellifluous, stupid river.


“Each Combustible Fluid Ounce in its Divorcing” (12-3)


Russell Dillon’s debut collection from Forklift Books, Eternal Patrol, radiates bioluminescent longing and maniacal ache. Dillon’s poetry fuses the energy of ecstasy with the reflective intensity of a mind that catches itself thinking helplessly into an abyss of terrible beauty. It is poetry that proceeds from the force of its diction: image-driven and unencumbered—it roams the lyric landscape like a hand over goosebumped flesh—gently electric, felt and feeling, vulnerable and terrified to life by the force of contact.


The inaugural release from Forklift Books, an imprint of indie mainstay H_NGM_N Books and the perfect-bound extension of contemporary American poetry’s OG of DIY, Forklift, Ohio, Dillon’s book sets the tone for a press that straddles the fuck you aesthetic of punk culture and the bleeding heart, rose-ravaged hands of the Romantic literary tradition. Certainly present in Dillon’s work is the unmistakable legacy of Dada, Surrealism, the Beats, and, most prominently, the “Last Avant-Garde” of the New York School of poets: Rimbaud, Tzara, Breton, Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and John Ashbery. Dillon’s poems often speak plainly and powerfully, imbued with energy derived from bright, sprawling diction.


Let’s get something straight: the quivering bolts

of your empire portray a certain innocence

but are not nearly a match for the fits of your sky.

Yes, the four doors of the heart fly open, slam shut,

though the motion’s symbiosis is never quite explained.


“More Mid- than -Western” (25)


And yet Dillon’s participation in this lineage highlights a distinct strain of avant-gardism: the reflective vulnerability of Apollinaire, Robert Desnos, Frank O’Hara and, perhaps the closest kin to Dillon among these greats: James Schuyler, whose meditations often defy the stereotypical chattiness of the New York School, which Ashbery once cleverly conceded as superficial, “all the way down.” There is very little of the superficial in Dillon’s poetry: it radiates from the core of things out into the plains of observation.


The air, and its oceans, they want to break into you.

I’m bringing this, and my ignorant translation of light.

It is Christmas morning. Your mother is crying,


and so are you, both trapped or dead beneath this ice,

within these pressures, these peekings, these tiny bits of glass.


“Eternal Patrol” (63)


Dillon’s poetry is a fever dream from which he refuses to wake, except to pull the reader into his warmed blanket fort filled with wonderfully grave play. In this regard, he is yet another bright-burning acolyte of Dean Young, his generation’s single most influential poet. But while some Young-ites err into the only-momentarily-interesting crack and sizzle of dizzying association, Dillon, like Young himself, divines within chaos the drone of mortality.


A horse throws its show, and all over is the sky.

I have been given a lot of drugs lately, but have taken very few.

I never feel the weight that I am when reading it from a scale,

but oftentimes the weight that I feel goes unmeasured.

Seeds, water, and good soil, yet still the earth does not roar

when we slam into it with our shovels. Rather, it resists us by

not turning. On one side of the bridge there is a suicide view,

on the other an out-to-sea-ness that is attacked by larger boats.

These tasks, and everything about finance, are quite foreign to me,

but when the fires start, I understand completely.


“Damage Damage” (64)


Dillon moves with his feet to the earth, even as he wanders it restlessly with his head stowed in innumerable clouds. This ambulatory, meditative intensity largely eludes the tradition of the avant-garde and finds its source instead in the great English Romantics: Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and John Clare. Like these poets, Dillon relies on pastoral imagery and the refuge of Nature as a place of both chaos and order. More contemporary examples of this, and more proximate to Dillon’s own poems, are James Wright, Gary Snyder, James Galvin, Robert Hass, and Louise Gluck. What unites these poets is the conviction that the real is really real and that poetry can make it so. The result is a brutally elegant navigation of high-stakes beauty, a notion perfectly captured by this collection’s title. When a submarine goes missing, it is said to be on “eternal patrol”—the image conjured is a vessel roaming beneath the surface of the sea in perpetual investigation of the unknown depths from which the living can never return. Dillon’s collection is such a vessel: as unexpected and awesome as a creature that has evolved to see in perfect darkness.

And then there was our great envy of the painters,

how it all became an agreement with our sisters,

that light alone would reveal their breasts

to be our mothers’ breasts, like a map into

the backstreets of a small town burning.

There are terrible places in this world, but

people know our names there, so we return.


“Collect Call from the Hague” (29)


Russell Dillon’s Eternal Patrol feels its way through the dark: reaching for anything that might offer orientation. What makes this wandering artful and potentially salvific is that Dillon’s hands can see what they feel, and that the mind to which they’re attached has the words to make real for us their feeling.






Are There Still Wild Horses in America

 I noticed several years between them

on the veranda. I wished them happy weather

but there was nothing I could do about the weather

and we all knew that. It is hard to believe one’s faith

some days: the party record you play at a funeral.

Some days we deem palm readers the least fraudulent

among us in their need to hold a hand, any hand at all.

And I suppose they were happy.

And then one day they were napping,

and then they were walking their dog

to its grave, and then they were in separate

rooms, and then they made desperate love,

and then they were normal, and I suppose

then one day they weren’t anymore.


Intermezzo in A Major

 Now I know the light in Vienna as one sings

coming towards me


I know worn-down houses

in the gutted industrial     in the decapitated


envelope     morning rages

from your clavicle


In my pocket     a threshold

In my gas tank   black rain


What a man in crisis

Christ is           a boy in London hidden

in the single white room

of his mother                     As I have at times


On these streets


Run the pianist down

The light in Vienna pulls at its blouse

There you are              also pulling


You are also in Auckland as I build my boat slowly


I am only a window     Do you see all the houses

Do you see     the man you love?

I refuse to live


A life in which I don’t get carried away

and often     A broken window cannot close

Now I know not         a mountain

to drive towards


I am so lost

to be American


Not that anything is or ever can be     even from over

wherever I am

the light in Vienna


We spoke up               new to feeling new


And also I am fragile


The evening years from this one

in a drifted café


I’ll hear Brahms

and there you are        with me


Clara how far

can your hands stretch?
At least across an ocean


Like most I know worth knowing

I need to quit drinking,

as every time I drink I fall in love,

and every time I fall in love

doors come off their hinges

signs come off their posts and posts

come out the ground, half

the varsity football team with bats

and crowbars and the mailboxes too

find their way to the fire

refusing to burn

as sometimes love will

drive you out into fields

in backs of pickups with all

the fucking stars clichéd

against night and you drift

on your back treading slowly

out in lake light

trying not to be seen

trying not to think

at the ways they refuse to lie

still as sometimes love will

float and sometimes love will

sing through the bottom

of the staff, stumble out

onto a balcony of birds

where the only part better

than the fall is the fall

after that and after that you get up

you get up and get it over


Bradley Harrison is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and a PhD student at the University of Missouri. His work can be found in New American WritingFugueNew Orleans ReviewForklift OhioBest New Poets 2012 and elsewhere. His chapbook, Diorama of a People, Burning is available from Ricochet Editions (2012).

Bradley Harrison grew up in small town Iowa and is a graduate of Truman State University. Currently a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas in Austin, his work can be found in Gulf Coast, CutBank, The Los Angeles Review, Hunger Mountain, New Orleans Review and other journals. His chapbook Diorama of a People, Burning is forthcoming from Ricochet Editions (Fall 2012).