Thursday, March 29, 2018
March 26, 2018 Issue
In her wonderful poem “Giraffe,” in this week’s issue, Lucie Brock-Broido, who died earlier this month, muses on reincarnation. In the opening sentence, she says of the giraffe, “In another life, he was Caesar’s pet, perhaps a gift from Cleopatra / When she returned to Rome / Her hair salty and sapphire / From bathing, the winged kohl around her eyes smudged / From heat.” Her next sentence continues the theme: “In another life, he was from Somalia / Where he spent hours watching clouds / In shapes of feral acrobats tipping along their tightropes / Spun of camels’ hair and jute.” Several lines later, she writes, “Once, in another life in the Serengeti, he stretched his neck / To feed on the acacia twigs, mimosa, wild apricot.” Further on, she writes, “If you come back from the other world, to this— / The sky in Denmark, in its reticulated weathers, is inky / On most days in February now.” There are a couple of other lines implying a form of reincarnation, as well: “In the Copenhagen Zoo they only name the animals who grow / Old there, and, in this life, they called him / Marius but he was just a two-year-old,” and “In that moment was he looking at a gray, cobbled / Steeple in the middle distance of a dome / Or thinking of a time when his life was circled by a mane / Of warmth in a bright Numidian sun?” I find these lines ravishing. That “clouds / In shapes of feral acrobats tipping along their tightropes / Spun of camels’ hair and jute” is inspired. The whole poem is brilliant, a perfect illustration of what Dan Chiasson meant when he said, “From her very first poems, collected in A Hunger (1988), Brock-Broido has shown how to bring maximum dazzle to every detail” (“The Ghost Writer,” The New Yorker, October 28, 2013).