In this extraordinary new collection by distinguished poet Christopher Howell, the opening poem presents us with a spiritual paradox that will echo throughout its pages. The speaker remembers an earlier time of happiness, freedom, and a certain innocence. The poem closes with:
And if he remembers now he is in love, which is the soul’s condition, and alone because that is how we live.
"How we live" is the book's major inquiry; its illustration, the poems' major achievement. How do we live, in our dailiness, in our loves, our private and global wars? And, in the face of unbearable grief, how can we live?
When Keats, at last beyond the curtain of love’s distraction, lay dying in his room on the Piazza di Spagna, the melody of the Bernini Fountain “filling him like flowers,” he held his breath like a coin, looked out into the moonlight and thought he saw snow. He did not suppose it was fever or the body’s weakness turning the mind. He thought, “England!” and there he was, secretly, for the rest of his improvidently short life: up to his neck in sleigh bells and the impossibly English cries of street venders, perfect and affectionate as his soul. For days the snow and statuary sang him so far beyond regret that if now you walk rancorless and alone there, in the piazza, the white shadow of his last words to Severn, “Don’t be frightened,” may enter you.
I If He Remembers June Light in Oslo Running Metamorphosis Trusting the Beads Unexpectation History Today Situation 2003 A Party on the Way to Rome Apacatastasis If the World Were Glass The Counterchime Confession He Writes to the Soul 1974
II Stories for Braille Calliope Sometimes at the Braille Calliope Bird Man Stranded The Eye Becomes Birds Because of War The Toad Prince King's Ex Zeno The Thriteenth Interval Teleology of the Airhose King of the Butterflies The Montavilla Reveries The Fire Elegies 1. Family Values 2. The Double Suicide of Marriage 3. To Build a Fire 4. Storm 5. Arrivals 6. The Angels of Rescue A Christmas Ode After the Fashion of Michael Hefferman... Heaven
III Why the River Is Always Laughing Galileo Story Time All Day at the Brainard Pioneer Cemetery Backyard Astronomy Letter Cole Porter The Getaway Keats Event Like Rain Descending The New Orpheus A Little Blues
Acknowledgments About the Poet
"No excerpt of any of the poems will help you understand the poignancy and meaning in these poems. Read them. Read them all. It will change your life."
Salem Statesman Journal
"Chris Howell is probably the most gifted poet in America..He tends to write magnificent lyrical poems, but Light's Ladder is filled with narrative poems and they are tremendous."