Monday, April 13, 2020

The Justice of the Night

The Justice Of The NightThe Justice Of The Night by Glen Cavaliero
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The First Lesson

God has a great round face
like the sun, a dial like the sun,
a sun-dial.

His grin is the daylight.
He tosses the earth in his arms
on a taut line

far up into the night
then over and down to the day
from holly to rose.

We are hurled about,
his sport, his delight, his toy,
sun-up, sun-down:

he never misses a catch,
that good giant God,
tough and sure.

Cling to the ball
as it spins, enjoy the game
if you can, breathless,

bruised; endure the round
of grief and glamour, the theme
all laws obey

safe in the everlasting
thrust and clasp of his arms
at work, in boundless play.

Thus opens Glen Cavaliero's marvelous collection, The Justice of the Night. There is, beginning with this poem and shot throughout the rest, a sense of playfulness and despair, a lining of humor and hope to a dark cloud of existentialism raining down fleeting moments of opportunity, some caught, most lost, slipping through the fingers, but enough drops of Kairos sticking to the skin to impart the feeling of meaning to it all.

Perhaps I am too stuck on my formative time living in England in the mid-80's. Or maybe my recent trip back there made me overly nostalgic again. But Cavaliero seems to capture the very essence of the isle.

For instance, "Hellingley" is a reverse-hauntology, the ghosts of what might have used to be, but were only a distorted reflection of the present, until now. It is a yearning, an anachronistic aching. I feel it when I dream of England. I do. I do.

I thought that "On the March" had a familiar feel to it, despite the strange place names. Then, when I read that it was about eastern Wales, it suddenly made sense: Cavaliero had invoked Hay-on-Wye from within me, drawn Wales out from my memory and impressions. It's summoning magic, raising ghosts in my mind. Necromancy of psychogeography.

Lastly, in my mind, but not in the book, I am entranced by "The Auditors," which is everything i would ever to aspire to write in a poem. It sums Cavaliero's oeuvre up nicely, a bookend (if not chronologically, forgive the timeslip) to the opening poem:

The Auditors

Those clarion mornings on the hill,
the auburn stone of balustrades, celestial
intervals of bells - such stainless recollections
are precarious: very soon

the holy landscape of the visionary
poets, lovers, priests, affording miracles
of stupefying grace too beautiful for sight,
reveals obscenities

to blighted carrion plots
you come across by chance. Uneasiness infests you
as it crawls in hair and skin. Some shed or nettle-patch,
that crumbling privy . . .

Always and everywhere
the grey judicious unimpassioned angels
taking stock will register each violation
of an urge to live

despite all discord,
and they let things be. A coachload on the motorway
goes roaring through the dangerous rain, the tarmac glares,
no intersection

interrupts. The auditors
are not concerned: familiar with fatalities
in underpasses, swamps or lonely woodland,
they administer

oblivion, their heartless love
dispensing coal-black wine to obviate
the plight of every grid-locked suppliant
and to underwrite each debt.

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