The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler

This year, I made a deal with myself to read more things out of my comfort zone. That includes poetry, a genre of writing I still engage with timidly. To get started, I bought many of the shortlisted books for the National Book Award for Poetry. I have already read the award winner - The Performance of Becoming Human by David Borzutzky - and Look by Solmaz Sharif, and this week I read The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler.

Where Borzutzky's and Sharif's work focused on the suffering of a nation, a people, on war and the way we take bodies for granted, Hopler's work was about the loss of his father. All are moving. I found myself drawn, however, to Hopler's lighter poems. Perhaps fitting for a Sunday read. Here are a couple I really enjoyed:

O, the Sadness Immaculate

The women in Rome are so beautiful,

It's like being beaten to death in slow motion,

Look at them--; it's like bleeding.

So I don't look

At them. I look at the parrots nesting

In the olive trees,

The moon rising behind some ancient

Something-or-other (a church, probably), the first few stars--. From my study

window, I can

See the house where Galileo invented

The telescope. I wonder what he was

Thinking about that night--that night

He first searched

Heaven; I wonder what it was he was

Trying not to see.

Self Pity is Better Than No Pity at All

When the moon's white push unplumbs the sunflower,

The yellow mums behind my father's house disappear

In a combustion of butterflies. Too bad

I am not a lover of butterflies.

Such a rowdy hallelujah

Is wasted on me. Even so--, I don't think it would be

Such a bad thing, disappearing

In a combustion of butterflies.

It would be better than staying in this ghostly house

With nothing to keep me company but these yellow

Mums and butterflies.

That crooked sunflower.

And that moon. That pushy, pushy