In this superb new poetry collection, the world is viewed through the metaphor of Saint Paul's: as though it were seen "through a glass darkly." But although McCabe's landscape is often dark, her language is quite clear, capable of letting through enough light to see that
"sometimes / it is beautiful, framed in flame, / and [only] some days, as
today, obscure." But even when it is totally dark, the poet assures us that
"Hymn will lead you / humming," never straying far from her assertion: "I hope."
And it is when McCabe
writes about this hope that her poems truly sing. "Sometimes lying hours
awake I can almost hear / the deer sweep through the undergrowth, / ring the
house, its small barn, // past the apple tress, gnarled and spent." And
even when "motionless at the window," the poet "can't really see
them at all, only the absence of pine against // star spattered sky, the vague
/ recollection of light" shines through. This is because she is adamant
about "the soul's / determination not to be alone." But even when
most others would abandon hope as the light wanes, this poet tells us that
"the sharp dark was revealed at last / to be curves and sweet
tastes." And in the poem "Planting," we learn that even "in
absence, something ...will branch. Bloom."
Selecting a favorite poem
is a difficult choice to make, but a strong candidate is "On Hearing the
Call to Prayer over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning." In it, the
poet reminds all nihilists as well as all saviors that "Things are seldom
as hard as they seem. / I believe in this, called what you will; / and if a prayer
can rise me bread like, // so the day is risen." Yet, it is "A
complex equation, // x contains multitudes, contradictions, can be / both
positive or negative, influenced one day / by the preponderance of greater than
/ nothing; one day by weight of less than."
McCabe’s voice is original, I can hear echoes of poets who have come before
her: the footsteps of Whitman, the self-reflective images of Levis as in the
final line of “Boy in Video Arcade: "And it's slow work because of all the
gauzy light. / It's hard to pick out anything."
McCabe has done the hard, slow work of assembling poems with language that
aptly describes a vision both memorable and mature, a vision that invites us in
to recreate it in our own work, without vaunting ourselves up in pride or
falling into the pit of despair.