The Descent

The Descent

by Sophie Cabot Black


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"Black's poems, in their measured grace, have a quiet intensity, animated by her passion for a clarity of understanding, in the art as in the life."-Stanley Kunitz

I have not handled the ordinary well

And wandered into much time spent

Taking on the unfaithful,

Blunder and flaw. --from "Heaven, Which Is"

Sophie Cabot Black's anticipated follow-up to her award-winning debut, The Misunderstanding of Nature, describes a restless spirit at the crossroads of love and damage, rapture and disenchantment, the mountain and the descent. The voices of these poems struggle through the hesitancies of doubt and loss to end at more than survival or witness; they achieve clarity by singing of the resiliencies of the known world, after paradise inevitably fails.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555974060
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 08/18/2004
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 9.08(h) x 0.28(d)

About the Author

Sophie Cabot Black's first poetry collection, The Misunderstanding of Nature, received the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award. She lives in New York

Read an Excerpt

The Descent

By Sophie Cabot Black

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2004 Sophie Cabot Black
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-406-6

Chapter One


Three men gather. To honor another who has died, To set a stone in his favorite meadow. They walk into mountains until coming to a field Where one man decides to sit awhile. Two men Continue up the watershed, speaking Of women and hay and how it has been too long Since the rains, even the elk have come down. When they get to the next clearing, the second man Climbs into a tree and falls asleep. He is tired And does not want to be with the other. Into the cold evening the third man rises, and the owl waits Until she can no longer. He holds his hands Over a fire he has built in the treeless North. He is thinking of the descent, all of it. HOLY At the cross of the cross Is the part that holds. Two roads Meet; after that is the work of continuing

On. Beyond intersection Lies departure, which is then to see What goes on without you, what

Does not go wrong. One tree reconciles Against another; arm over arm, A man across a woman in a contract

Of the one thing they know They do well, which is the beginning Of how one will soon leave The other. They cannot turn back For what they have made in the air Already discloses agreement, and

Is where many have stopped to rest. BIRTHDAY The tree becomes a sign I pass Of how it has gone on; branches that hold Up the first stars like waiting candles

Against the coming night. I have learned To live with less and less While the child in the backseat sleeps

Believing she is already home. Out of her hand falls one shoe, Her mouth is stained with whatever kind Of paradise she has wished for,

And something in my mind Darts across the road, a small animal Moving perfectly between tires As I look back to see nothing changed.


Excerpted from The Descent by Sophie Cabot Black Copyright © 2004 by Sophie Cabot Black. Excerpted by permission.
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