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Poetry. The poems in Allen Brafman's WHEREVER I LOOK, I AM NEVER THERE are on fire. There is a violence, a wrenching grief. This is where I am, he said. 'It is music, it is smoke / coming from my mouth.' Or this: 'my voice / no longer words / but traffic / vaguely in the way.' But there are countervailing things: Brafman's tenderness, his quiet, patient, beautiful observations, his sense of the tempo of recognition, how things come to manifest themselves, take their places in consciousness, his resolute good will, his ear, his affection for the world. From 'Learning the Shape' (a wonderful poem): 'Which one is the leader, she insists. No one, / someone says. They are equal and / of a single mind...' just could not be better, and the whole thing has a rightness to it that lifts the heart. Brafman's WHEREVER I LOOK, I AM NEVER THERE is a brave book. The power, and the art, to be one.--Michael O'Brien
'We will lose everything we love, ' says Zen teacher Joan Sutherland, 'and everything that loves us will lose us.' In this wondrous book, Allen Brafman offers us a sustained meditation on how we might begin to requite this heartbreaking gift, letting joy and loss play through him with an unflinching responsiveness and honesty, tinged with gentle humor and unfailingly open-hearted. While the focus of these poems is movingly local and intimate, often familial, the implicit backdrop, never insisted upon, situates the incidents and histories rendered here against a horizon that feels vast, still, and full of mystery. I hear these poems as one continuous song of praise.--Tenney Nathanson.