Borrowed Light
by Ken Haas
Red Mountain Press

"is what separates us from the beasts
cracks the cabbie in Jersey
as we grind like chipped gear teeth
toward the steel cervix
of the George Washington Bridge."

Through poetry, this textured memoir reflects on life, world events, and a twentieth-century Jewish American trajectory from war to conventional comforts and challenges. Written with the rich benefit of hindsight and longevity, these poems blend deft wordplay and stylish storytelling to reveal the bonus of age and perspective: finding out how certain stories end, how events connect, and which ironies and juxtapositions emerge.

There is rich and varied commentary here. The poet playfully exposes the wisdom and innate strength of pre-feminist American women. He highlights the absurd contrast of Jewish Hollywood players changing their names and commanding the box office at the same time as European Jews were ravaged by genocide in the Holocaust. He plays baseball, considers nature, laments divorce and aging, and remembers childhood, family, and past loves across his journey from the Bronx to the San Francisco Bay Area. Earthy, bawdy, even lusty entries contrast with loftier considerations, which, when taken together, create the balanced sketch of an authentic, thinking man who is not just an intellectual nor a scoundrel but a real, multi-dimensional character whose eyes have seen and considered much.

The loose narrative style of these poems offers ample space for reflection and insight, with entries that are deceptively meandering in their narration, right up until the words slice and dice into the reader with punchlines that punch hard, delivering humor and surprise in some cases, with deeper and more biting dismounts in others. Rhyming poems these are not, yet their swift lyrical delivery is rhythmic and musical nevertheless.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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