From ‘The Book of the Missing’:
A chronicle of the shadows of a specific epoch, this slender collection arrives. Its Atlantic mood blows breezes of warmth, salty air, stifled cries, some measure of jubilation, and the chaos of a universe remaking itself from the debris of history. A history of loss, of love, of desire, of atonement for wrongs committed, for lives interrupted, for fires unstoked.
Mornings sipping steaming black coffee when solitude requires sounds from the likes of Dafer Yousseff or Busi Mhlongo, Souad Massi or Susana Baca. Arabica beans permeate the air inside, outside the sparkling songs of the tiniest birds, handfuls of “bone and feather and a thousand thousand miles of flight/ twice yearly through cyclones and blizzards and tropical storms.” All of these things Heidi Grunebaum’s poetry distills. Between silence and birdsong, eyes closed, head back, the poet remembers: exile, sacrifice, the natural world, the bones of the lost.
The dulling ache of loss that stills her heart for a beat before quickening it recalls a former self once full of ideals and outrage, clawing for hope – for “poets wage the war of hope.” When a sad smile on a late winter sprig flutters in the poem’s conscience, when calling up obsessed prophets is all that brings succor, language shelters. When improvisations that run out “the back door/ climb up and up then down through the ruts and routes cut by fugitive notes” to soothe the certainty that the terrible, what has drowned history’s greatest crimes, may be coming still, from the future, rather than having been chased from the past: which direction, this poetry asks, will the “Angelus Novus” turn?
Its wings singed, its course uncertain, this angel nestles as delicately, as determined, as the tiniest migrant finch does between Grunebaum’s lines. Listen, pay heed, enter the shadows of these words and savor their afterlife.
By Isabel Balseiro April 2019
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