Storm Toward Morning

Malachi Black. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-472-4
Black’s full-length debut opens with an epigram from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII—“I shall fall/ Like a bright exhalation in the evening,/ And no man shall see me more”—before unfolding as a memento mori in three sections. Section one approaches death from far off, with Black delighting in the ephemeral. There is a sense of entropy at work: “when living/ is in season, they can live;/ but living is no reason/ to continue.” Section two concerns itself with the existence of God, in a crown of sonnets that takes its structure from monastic prayer cycles. Black’s meditation leads him from his declaration that “I don’t believe that you made me,” to the recognition, 10 pages later, that he is a “perch for the eternal.” The final section takes its view of death from section one and gives it immediacy. Skulls become shells for wind to swirl in and everything is “sad extravagance.” The piano music of the book’s opening poem becomes “a clef/ on empty sheet music/ inside a closed piano bench,” and the book closes as Black ruminates on the light emanating from the space inside of letters. Each section has flat and repetitive moments, but they don’t distract from the whole. The words “burn on absentmindedly/ each night,” but they burn fiercely nonetheless. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/15/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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