Night Unto Night

Martha Collins. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-57131-489-5
In this luminous companion to Day Unto Day, Collins renders the most humbling, gorgeous, and inscrutable features of human existence as if they might be made legible: “Earth shifts/ its bones, quakes open/ again, drinking in/ its own, scrawled sign/ on fallen wall.” She invokes Psalm 19 to help readers understand the night as more than a reference to darkness, endings, or death: “Day unto day uttereth speech,/ and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” Collins also draws on other sacred texts, figures, and rituals to arrive at a very earthly knowledge of finitude—of one’s own mind and body, as well as of beloved others. Symbolically, there are “periods ending sentences everywhere,” while “waves// slate the sand for night/ to write its one last word.” A notably moving passage unfolds, section by numbered section, in the poem “In Time.” Recounting a mother’s death, Collins writes, “Her last word/ was no but then a nod/ when the minister prayed give// us this day that last day.” As Collins probes the finitude of the mind and body, her meditations move from sadness and fear of the “body’s destruction/ its final truce” to a kind of knowledge, fullness, and resignation on the subject: “For now, Grazie, tutti, I am almost/ at the gate, I’m going through.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
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