Saturday, August 7, 2021

Night Angler

Alongside these books for the Sealey Challenge, I had been reading The Writer's Library, and in the last interview in that, Russell Banks says that "books open the door to a larger world. I don't read to escape. I read to enter. To go somewhere, which is different. A very different motivation, I think." I agree, a different motivation, and, while I did some escape reading during the pandemic's lockdown period, mostly I read to enter other worlds. Reading poetry gives me an intense, intimate, profound look at other lives through various doorways.

Reading Night Angler, by Geffrey Davis, I enter the life of a tender father, devoted to his family, who is also ambivalent toward his own father. (Violence, addiction, desertion.) There are several poems called "The Night Angler," meaning fishing but also navigating the darkness. In one, addressed to his son, there's this aching iteration:

     Dear Boy: In the beginning
     father was a fear I wanted

     to call love.

That gets to the heart of everything, I think! Water, rivers, fishing weave throughout this book, and love, and so does the song, "You Are My Sunshine," which my mother sang to me. In "Pleasures of Place," I also encounter  the familiar--places members of my family have settled in the past or present, Pennsylvania and Oregon, but not Arkansas, where the poet speaks from now, but here's the month of August, with his Dear Boy spinning in it, and into my world:

                              As if on cue, you come
     bombing out the backdoor, two flashlights in hand, and run
     deep into the August dark, where you invent a dazzling
     dance that frames your body in this turning I can't describe.

I am grateful and glad to witness this joy, and sad to enter the reality and woe of "Self-Portrait as a Dead Black Boy," an elegy for more than one Black man. But how else can I learn?

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