Follow Harriet on Twitter
Wednesday Shout Out
Happy New Year!
During this holiday season of merriment and celebration, as those of us who are more fortunate do our gift-giving and eating and partying, indeed feed our bodies with spiritual and social nourishment, I look to the artists for perspective. I was pleased to discover A New Hunger. The polyglot poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar closes her third full-length book of poems with the following piece, which I have formally adopted as my bedtime prayer:
Lights go off, one by one, in the buildings
across the street. There’s something
solemn about this—the lone
drone of cars and cabs
an urban lullaby to shut windows.
Pull the sheet over this day, subway driver,
torah reader, birthday girl, pimp.
Pull the sheet, soldier’s mother, corpse
dresser, drunk man’s bride.
Sleep my daughter. Sleep my son,
and sleep Jeremiah Smith: the newborn
he delivered in a charity ward today. Sleep.
Wrap a wing around the orphan,
the hungry woman, the caged man.
Shut your eyes, face the walls, the scythe’s
blade is tilting toward the earth—so
sleep for the one who knows horror,
or the one who dares speak in any god’s name.
Don’t listen to the clockmaker: he’s setting
the alarm. Sleep until it rings—sleep
toward the waking and the windowless night.
The exhaustion of the day’s activities and the need for stress-relieving rest are perhaps the two universal experiences of the everyday citizen, and this poem captures the ceremony of nightfall with a soft tone that assures and comforts. Pulling the sheet is a literal gesture to be performed in bed, but symbolically it’s also the shroud that closes in on the body that each night edges closer to eternal sleep.
Bosselaar collects many New York moments in this book because the moods of this collection are, like New York, always in transit, always fleeting. Chance encounters (an overheard cell phone conversation, a familiar name called out on the subway platform, a respite on a public bench overlooking the Hudson) become serendipitous opportunities for reflection and for holding on to the value of the ephemeral.
Another highlight of this book is the long poem “The River’s Mouth, The Boat, The Undertow,” which contains nods to García Lorca, Hart Crane, and Baudelaire: “Là-bas…Là-bas…les merveilleux nuages… Bosselaar joins Marilyn Hacker, Marie Ponsot, Beckian Fritz Goldberg, Rita Dove and Natasha Trethewey in writing a truly memorable and successful crown of sonnets.
This book is a treasure, and an appropriate keepsake as we bid adiós to 2007 and begin 2008, as we stand between the old yearnings and the new, as we take stock of our fortunes, and tuck away thoughts about our misfortunes.
(From A New Hunger, published with Ausable Press, 2007.)