Saturday, May 05, 2007

Making The New Lamb Take

No pastoral poetry is complete without a lamb, and in the poetry of Gabe Fried we find that lamb, and that field, front and center. Achingly exquisite with formal splendor, Fried's poems echo Thomas Hardy, or that American school of quietude that harkens back to a time of less media and cultural saturation and disconnection. I'll have more to say after seeing the whole, but having read much of the poems individually I can attest to the complexity and verbal precision, the polish, depth of feeling and intellectual engagement. This poetry comes from many angles all at once and all with great care and skill. A long time coming, this collection, and worth the wait. Congrats, Gabe.

Here is the title poem:

Making the New Lamb Take

The skin is only perfume now.

It won't take seed and grow: cells

clot like sand, the vellus curling

from both ends in tendrils.

We have lifted it--careful--off,

waiting for a breeze to taper until air

is no enemy, dried sheets tugging

down the line. Underneath is flesh too

fresh for day, like eyes that spend

the hours mining in dream or lamplight

Working there, while at it, we hear

the mourning ewe from the bluish fields

she wanders--a harbormaster

who has ruined single-mindedness.

And though it doesn't do one stitch

of good, we think of her.

We cannot tell her it is not her doing,

knowing how our own don't always live,

or won't live well.

We cannot lie, even in our lingual tongue,

which must make muddled sense

to her, at best--one stray sound

among many sticks, then ticks off

into the chasm.

Instead, we bind the fleece

to the back of another: young, just

seeing, of a more prosperous mother

who's tired from all the mouths at her.

We tie the flapping ankles tight

with hemp, then hood the head over:

both mouths now silenced.

This disguise was never meant

for sight, so we guide them,

the old aroma warming underneath,

leash taut with mute resistance.

They say the ewe will come to love

him after weeks; I have my doubts.

But underneath the clouds—like clouds

themselves, led by contrary winds—

we lead them into fields

and make them lie down.

No comments: