Infused with Mediterranean landscapes, the poems of Litanies Near Water, Paula Closson Buck's second collection, probe the world through language that acts sometimes like a divining rod and sometimes like a lightning rod. Elegant meditative lyrics such as "You Cannot Love the Wind" and "Theory of an Impersonal God" answer to politically alert poems like "Monk Killed by Tractor in Bid to Dodge Police." Ultimately, in Buck's deft hand, the lyrical quest for understanding becomes a form of diplomacy between the physical and the metaphysical, between instances of beauty and the violence that threatens daily.
From "Last Days"
The waiter unbuttons
his white shirt briskly,
pulls until it billows
and the tails fly free,
then wipes the tables clean.
I am driving the mountain road
behind a farmer's pickup.
One cow rides supine in the back;
from the two who straddle her,
thrown on the curves,
a rear leg splays out over the bed.
I lay on the horn, follow at a distance.
I weep, I linger these last days,
knowing what I know.
On a jag of sadness
for things that happen once
or not at all, or that never should,
I am eating with the lights off,
the crush of jasmine
so sweet I can't think straight.
Paula Closson Buck , author of The Acquiescent Villa, teaches creative writing at Bucknell University and is editor of the literary magazine West Branch. She lives with her family in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
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