cover image Quarantine


Brian Henry, . . Ahsahta, $16 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-916272-88-3

In 40 verse sections and several brief prose interludes, Henry (Graft ) portrays a nameless Englishman dying of plague in 1665. His protagonist remembers key bits of his life (in reverse order, from most recent to longest ago) as he lies in a field beside the dead bodies of his wife and son; he may have brought the disease home from a nearby river where he met young men for anonymous sex. Henry's doomed husband recalls his life in rapt, halting lines without punctuation, indebted to W.S. Merwin: his wife "did not scream like my son/ she died just the same hot and in pain/ I will die silent I will tell my story as I die." Though horrid vistas recur throughout —"the bodies on fire in the river for days"— the greatest pain is inward, as he regrets a life unlived: "If I could burrow into the dirt/ beneath my back I would fracture/ the earth to return." Henry, an editor of Verse magazine, takes his speaker's voice to a gritty extreme. (Mar.)