Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 133

By voicing the awkwardness of contemporary life with political resonances, Ostriker invites readers to step into the complicated mix of living, to engage with care and compassion in spite of, or perhaps because of, the awkward- ness that will inevitably ensue. In the poem “Ghazal: America the Beauti- ful,” Ostriker offers a complicated meditation on the nature of nationalism and citizenship where the Nation is revealed as “divisible / by money by power by color by gender by sex” yet the speaker still sometimes puts her “hand ten- derly on my heart / somehow or other still car- ried away by America.” In the meditative poem “Underground,” Ostriker juxtaposes libraries and archives with the Underground Railroad coming to the final two couplets: for it is difficult to find words of hope regarding decency and courage while words of the unhealed wound are everywhere while bodies continue bleeding, officials continue denying, op-eds continue decrying because the language of hope is underground. the querying nature of language and verbal exchanges, but their structure and explorations are profound. In the first in the collection, “Q&A: Red Red Rose” Ostriker begins, “When you take off your mask, what is your true ad- dress” then leaps to two questions of choice: If you had a choice, which tree would you like to be Which Beethoven symphony The childlike game of imagining oneself in other things emerges, but she turns quickly to adult questions, “Which is the most difficult of the Ten Commandments” and then, “Who is the one who hurt you the very most.” In “Q&A: Insurance,” the speaker asks, “If time is an ar- row, what is its target” and “Are you satisfied with your detergent” and “Are you satisfied with your auto insurance” then concludes with this tercet: When ecstasy approaches why do you resist What are you afraid of Can you please unbutton your shirt now Many poems in this collection demonstrate Ostriker’s ease with form. Waiting for the Light includes multiple ghazals, an acrostic, and a golden shovel. Form lends order to the questions Ostriker asks and also exposes the unease, the inequality, and the pain that she observes in the world. Poetic forms lend a brief shelter to the experiences in the world, but Ostriker equally embraces and explodes form as her subjects demand. The banal, the profound, and the sensuous are all bound together in the poem as in the final Q&A poem. “Q&A: Reality” ends with this question, “Did the Stone Age end because of a lack of stones[.]” This seemingly simple ques- tion, almost childlike in its assertive query, captures the philosophical complexity that Ostriker evokes in Waiting for the Light. These Q&A poems unfold with creative and imagina- tive leaps, demonstrate the capaciousness of Ostriker as a poet. As much as the collection is waiting for the break of morning over the hori- zon or the light that illuminates darkness and mystery, the collection is waiting for the light at the end of a life, the light that ends an age, that light that exposes a lack. A series of three Q&A poems are woven into this collection. These poems take the title from Ostriker, a chancellor of the Academy of Amer- ican Poets, is well known in contemporary The words of hope may be underground, the language of hope may be elusive in the contem- porary moment, but Ostriker’s poems affirm that they are there for people searching for them. VOL. 34, NO. 1 © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 133