|Allen Braden's newest is a book not to be missed|
Sometimes it takes me awhile to fall in love with a book of poems. In fact, the poems that come to mean something to me, always take their time insinuating themselves into my life. Allen Braden's Elegy in the Passive Voice, University of Alaska Press, is filled with these "slow-burn" poems that are so artfully crafted, so plainspoken and honest, that they seem to emerge from rural life with an unstudied ease. Of course that's one mark of the master poet: to make the task look effortless. And yes, Braden is a master poet as evidenced here in "Hearsay."
So few are left that know your story
we’ve no choice but to dish out the details.
Some swear you spent your days alone or sweating
alongside hired hands at Regan’s sheep camp.
For proof they point out a pair of shears,
a hooded lantern from the Depression,
but around here everything’s slurred
by malt liquor and years of indifference.
I heard there was no funeral,
your ashes spread out over the snow
on the graves of those rumored as kin.
Hearsay is history in this town.
One neighbor claims you handed him a tobacco tin,
chock-full of crumpled twenties and fifties
for the daughters, only two days beforehand.
I heard your sheep auctioned off for cheap.
A winter so cold the eggs froze under your hens....
Who found you anyway, stiff as a brace post
and propped up by the pot-bellied stove?
More than a dozen take the credit.