Book of Hours

Book of Hours

by Kevin Young
     
 

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A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of his father, we witness the unfolding of grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Capturing the strange silence of bereavement (“Not the storm / but the calm / that slays me”), Kevin Young acknowledges, even

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Overview

A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of his father, we witness the unfolding of grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Capturing the strange silence of bereavement (“Not the storm / but the calm / that slays me”), Kevin Young acknowledges, even celebrates, life’s passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence about the birth of his son: in “Crowning,” he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing “her face / full of fire, then groaning your face / out like a flower, blood-bloom,/ crocused into air.” Ending this book of both birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good/are wishes if they aren’t / used up?” while understanding “How to listen / to what’s gone.” Young’s frank music speaks directly to the reader in these elemental poems, reminding us that the right words can both comfort us and enlarge our understanding of life’s mysteries.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375711886
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/13/2015
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
343,345
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bereavement
Behind his house, my father’s dogs sleep in kennels, beautiful,
he built just for them.
 
They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails
 
& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal
 
& forgetful.
Each day they wake seeking his voice,
 
their names.
By dusk they seem to unremember everything—
 
to them even hunger is a game. For that, I envy.
For that, I cannot bear to watch them
 
pacing their cage. I try to remember they love best confined space to feel safe. Each day
 
a saint comes by to feed the pair
& I draw closer the shades.
 
I’ve begun to think of them as my father’s other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.
 
My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.
 
They are outside dogs—
which is to say, healthy
& victorious, purposeful
 
& one giant muscle like the heart. Dad taught them not to bark, to point
 
out their prey. To stay.
Were they there that day?
They call me
 
like witnesses & will not say.
I ask for their care
& their carelessness—
 
wish of them forgiveness.
I must give them away.
I must find for them homes,
 
sleep restless in his.
All night I expect they pace as I do, each dog like an eye
 
roaming with the dead beneath an unlocked lid.
 
 
Memorial Day
Thunder knocks loud on all the doors.
 
Lightning lets you inside every house,
white flooding
 
the spare, spotless rooms.
Flags at half mast.
 
And like choirboys,
clockwork, the dogs ladder their voices
 
to the dark, echoing off each half-hid star.
 
 
Greening
It never ends, the bruise of being—messy,
untimely, the breath
 
of newborns uneven, half pant, as they find their rhythm, inexact
 
as vengeance. Son,
while you sleep we watch you like a kettle
 
learning to whistle.
Awake, older,
you fumble now
 
in the most graceful way—grateful to have seen you, on your own
 
steam, simply eating, slow,
chewing—this bloom of being. Almost beautiful
 
how you flounder, mouth full, bite the edges of this world that doesn’t want
 
a thing but to keep turning with, or without you—
with. With. Child, hold fast
 
I say, to this greening thing as it erodes and spins.

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Meet the Author

Kevin Young is the author of seven previous books of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, winner of a 2012 American Book Award, and Jelly Roll, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the editor of eight other collections, most recently The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink. Young’s book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and won a PEN Open Book Award. He is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English, curator of Literary Collections and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.

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