They Lift Their Wings to Cry

They Lift Their Wings to Cry

by Brooks Haxton
     
 

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Brooks Haxton’s poetry has celebrated for thirty years our troubled pleasures in the daily world. This new collection, titled after a meditation on the cry of the snowy tree cricket, gives us his most moving response to the ferocious beauty of nature and to the folly and magnificence of human undertakings.

In the opening poem, the poet comes home drunk

Overview

Brooks Haxton’s poetry has celebrated for thirty years our troubled pleasures in the daily world. This new collection, titled after a meditation on the cry of the snowy tree cricket, gives us his most moving response to the ferocious beauty of nature and to the folly and magnificence of human undertakings.

In the opening poem, the poet comes home drunk without his key, collapses in the yard, and looks up to where, he says:
Whorls of a magnetic field exfoliated under the solar wind,
so that the northern lights above me trembled. No: that was the porch light blurred by tears.

With this self-deprecating wit and tenderness toward human failings, these poems search through history into the wilderness of our origins, and through the self into the mysterious presences of people we love.

A master of moods—as when a poem of grief after the death of a friend becomes a sprightly litany of her favorite wildflowers—Haxton is a poet who summons essences of thought and feeling in a few words, creating both narratives and miniatures that are rich in possibility beyond the page.

ISAAC’S ROOM, EMPTY, 4 A.M.

From the dark tree at his window blossoms battered by the rain fell into the summer grass, white horns, all spattered down the throat with purple ink, while unseen birds,
with creaks and peeps and whistles, started the machinery of daybreak.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Haxton's stripped-down, careful appreciations of flora, fauna and man-made things make him a reliable witness to what life gives and to what life takes away. Haxton's upstate New York locale gives him a good look at the harsh seasons, and at the beauty their procession brings: "berries/ of a bluebeard lily, blue as sapphires,/ blue with frost and poison." Haxton is capable of a fine wit: one poem pays comic homage to comic poet Kenneth Koch by imagining a fight between Rambo and Rimbaud. Usually, though, Haxton (Uproar) remains unadorned, thoughtful and sad. A poem called "Blast at the Attic Window" presents, "Inside a spinning cloud/ of stars, the mind/ in an intricate swirl of ice." Another, one of many about intimacy in advancing age, imagines what happens after "Her High School Flame Retires at 65 and Moves Back into His Childhood Home." It is not all downhill in this collection, nor is everything wintry: an unrhymed sonnet, lovely in its slight archaism, brings Haxton and his wife "Face to Face," as flattering "Sunlight under your eyebrow knits/ the iris into a bronzen veil."
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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307268457
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/03/2008
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

MY FATHER'S SUITThe suit we chose was navy blue.He sold them, hundreds,which we helped to fit,our hands impersonal,adept, that signed the papers now,while someone dressed his bodyin the suit. Without cosmetics,in the viewing room, the facelooked green and uninhabited,lips wide and thickly set,no ghost of him, not sad,not funny, not one bitafraid-the freckle on the hand,hair, veins, what had been his,without him now, extraneous, inane,brow under my trembling right palmcool with an inhuman density,as though immovable, but not.SUNLIGHT AFTER WARM RAINBrow damped by the noonday,drops at the edge of his jawin coruscations, he stood stillin the shade of that same oakhe had climbed in another lifefor mistletoe his mother usedto liven their front door at solstice,that same oak where his fathernow lay under the drip line.GIFTAll our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;and we all do fade as a leaf-Isaiah 64:6After my mother's father died,she gave me his morocco Bible.I took it from her hand, and sawthe gold was worn away, the bindingscuffed and ragged, split below the spine,and inside, smudges where her father'sright hand gripped the bottom cornerpage by page, an old man waiting, not quitereading the words he had known by heartfor sixty years: our parents in the garden,naked, free from shame; the bitterness of labor;blood in the ground, still calling for God'scurse-his thumbprints fading after the flood,to darken again where God bids Moses smitethe rock, and then again in Psalms, in Matthewevery page. And where Paul speaks of thingsGod hath prepared, things promised them who wait,things not yet entered into the loving heart,below the margin of the verse, the paperis translucent with the oil and darkstill with the dirt of his right hand.

Meet the Author

Brooks Haxton has published two book-length narrative poems, five other collections of poetry, and translations of Victor Hugo, Heraclitus, and selected poems from ancient Greece. He has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches in Syracuse University’s program in creative writing and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, and lives with his family in Syracuse.

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