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Lightered by Van K. Brock

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The way "pine needles speak their sibilants to the green/ pecans," Van K. Brock's LIGHTERED speaks to me. The book's title refers to highly combustible, sap-rich pine, and his poems - suffused with a strong sense of public and private history, Dixie-haunted, world-struck - sizzle and snap on the tongue and in the mind. Brock knows how to brush just enough strangeness into our speech to make it song and to make it last. He's been to the sacred wood and brought back fire. -- R T Smith

Van K. Brock is a poet to cherish - and read! - for his sense (wisdom) and skill in bringing the secrets of our time to us without spoiling the mystery. These lightered poems give brief strong light to family tragedies, evidence of ancient, too-present crime. And there are folktunes here, much music in the words for dancing, the washing screaming to be hung "in the sun like saved sinners." -- Michael Mott

Scholarship, love of nature and family, the honoring through poetry of art, music, and travel, indignant witnessing to history's evil absurdities - these and many other passions assure the power of Brock's chromatics. He hears even the shards of mosaics as songs that awaken epiphanies, and there's grief in his poems that we are too often fragmentary man, with some parts - perhaps the most essential for our humanity - unfinished. I've followed his work for years. I value this up-to-date definitive collection. -- David Ray

 

The Empty and the Naked

(from "Passages from Pandora's diary")

 

They say there is a cavity in us waiting to be filled, but
there is no cavity until we have been penetrated. The cavity
is their creation. Their nakedness, however, is certainly
waiting for women to clothe it. And when we have clothed it
and they have filled us with their longing, the fruition is neither
us nor them.Our longing is yet to be fathomed.

If you believe you are right, you can do any evil and consider
it a virtue. Soldiers treat their enemies better than their wives;
mothers and fathers beat their children; and all unselfishly
credit the gods. And they blame that which they desire most;
they blame women; they blame all women in one woman.
They blame me for all that is defective in themselves.

Curiously, this creates the law of inequality by means of which
I can assign all error to the other -- race, gender, city, and even to
the gods. Laid in intricately woven syntax, the cuckoo leaves its
heritage in the word "they." How better can nest-stealers merit
their name?

The loveliest girl in Hellas is rightly the most cynical, but the wisest
is the most compassionate.

 

These Words

The words I had for you were small
presents saying light things, and I had
filled them with my breath, like a bouquet
of balloons. Then, I thought they might
float off unless I tied them to you
or pressed them firmly into your grasp.
So I stayed up all night making them
into inflatable lifeboats. I know you know
they are too small to ride. Also,
they often crash although they sail up
rivers we have only dreamed, and even
disappear, with their secret cargoes,
into those distant interiors where

you may find one ripped open on a sharp
day, addressed to where you are, these
words, strewn among wave-smoothed pebbles,
but the cargo still there. Rare coins?
No. Only little phones that keep ringing
until you answer and the operator says,
"A person-to-person call: will you
accept the charges?" And I will say, "No,
Operator, it‘s person-to-person only.
The toll is paid." And to you: "The coins
are in you, not in those boats I made.
When you look inside, you will see.
The flipside is a map whose face is yours."

 

 

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