Book selection

Poem: ‘Love and the memory of it’

I still remember these lines in Jay Hopler’s first collection of poems, “Green Squall”: “To be born is a disgrace – / But it’s not so bad, as the journeys go….” Sixteen later comes Hopler’s third book of poems, one that documents his journey to the other end of a lifetime as he grapples with a terminal illness. Illness runs through these new poems, overturning them with a sonic devastation. The ending of this poem speaks for itself, but its sadness is mixed with the speaker’s love for the “atomic girl” and the way her laughter “echoed off the rocks.” Hopler died on June 15, 2022 at the age of 51. Selected by Victoria Chang

by Jay Hopler

don’t scare the shaken world with all its viruses and murder hornets
instead that summer evening reminds me of when you used to drive alone
on iowa
the light in the fields how long you were in love with her
& the air & the world & this girl this atomic girl you would make one
day get married
or summon a summer evening half a lifetime of then and the park
by the river the way her laugh
echoed on the rocks
in sparks that sighed
in water

it was she who lit up the world at that time
And not this ember of the sun
its light like a struck string rubbing its zing against the image-
beautiful tables

maybe it’s the music you hear
when they unplug the fan

Victoria Chang is a poet whose new book of poems is “Trees Testify to Everything” (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). Her fifth poetry book, “Obit” (2020), was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Time Must-Read. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the MFA program at Antioch University. Jay Hopler is a poet whose latest book is “Still Life” (McSweeney’s, 2022). His honors include a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship and he is a professor of English at the University of South Florida.