Then there floated a skull
In the river
In its intelligence
Seven decades of human ambivalence
. . .
A skull ignites the ears of each intelligence
You were looking for something familiar?
You were looking for some familiar thing?
Let it become a thing
To rest a head upon
The same sky dreamt, as nature is
The same standing under or understanding
. . .
The sun writes the wall
The bearer of joy
On the skin of a silent black wave
That is moving
That is still
I will share it with you
Until it is gone
In a letter Hart Crane sent to his father, he describes poetry, the art form which kept him from returning home to work in the family candy factory, as "something that maybe can't be sold or used to help sell anything else, but that is simply a communication between a man and a man, a bond of understanding and human enlightenment." I can think of no better description for Brandon Shimoda's unprecedented Evening Oracle, a series of bedtime meditations in the houses of strangers that begins with an overture of their luminous titles. Much of the sequence commemorates and honors family and the dead as the poet journeys through Japan, America, and memory itself. But all of the poems take necessary cues from the living who also endure, as the poet quotes, remembers, and addresses with intimacy and delicacy his earthly beloveds, who, like our own, so often make us miss them. The poet is on a personal journey, but he knows his life is not the only life. He brings us into his intimacies, but there is no staged candor–all is ghosted with what is perishable and what we cannot understand. This book's slow pace enables the reader to walk with it. Its pleasures are grace, purity, sorrow, and unexpected happiness. It wears the language like a mist and is constantly surprised by its sudden clearing into silence. And so, Evening Oracle remembers poetry as a relation between two strangers, carved in time only with silence's permission.