In A Green Line Between Green Fields, Steve Abbott not only asks the fundamental questions (Who am I? Who are you? Who are we together?), he dares to imagine for himself and others—an Alzheimer’s patient, an aging widower, the nation—who we are when we no longer recognize ourselves as ourselves. Abbott’s highly lyrical-narrative lines echo poets such as Phil Levine and Richard Hugo, heroes of both the white working class of the last century and of the poetic imagination. Word by word, their “insistent rhythm” nudges us “like newborns, awake.” —Kathy Fagan, author of Sycamore
The Derby at Ciccone’s, Kent, Ohio for Maj Ragain
Major’s crooked hands belie their strength,
the kind that breaks or guides a horse,
shreds The Daily Racing Form at the finish
or lifts bleeding hearts from soil even as
the entire globe resists his gentle pull.
On the grips of his crutches, they are steady
the way his fingers ride a pen like a small boat
across a river. His ecstasy is barely contained,
track announcer’s voice entering him
like dark coffee, like a poem.
His ribs resonate the timbre of bamboo,
his breath the moonmoth on Buson’s temple bell.
As our horse drops back in the pack,
I want to ask him if we should have played
the long shot, hedged our bets, or if
letting go is what we’re meant to do.
His eyes, when he answers, are lanterns
on moving water. The hedge is
part of what it splits, he says,
a green line between green fields.
Steve Abbott’s A Green Line between Green Fields begins “and yes, this is how the light comes”—and you are invited to be part of a conversation about the overlooked world. In the poem “Blackberries” we hear: “I had to learn there, / in the great living room / of oak and maple, / that whatever spoke / was a voice I knew / from some other time.” There are poems of hopping freights and living in the truth-at-some-cost wake of Delight: “landlocked, / I listen to my own part of the ocean / in the wind-washed trees outside.” In this book, throughout, I felt a great-heart take me by the arm and, with all gentleness of humility, say, Look. —Roy Bentley, author of Starlight Taxi (winner, Blue Lynx Poetry Prize)