'This gospel of loneliness says / Two pleasures endure: / those of the flesh / and those of the writing desk.' With these opening lines, we are ushered into the alternating rhythms of John Estes's poetry, its delicious balance between the playful and the profound, between ordinary life--that profusion of conjugal love, sleepless toddlers, and broken plumbing that inspired Virginia Woolf's plea for 'a room of one's own'--and the kind of insight that can only spring, Athena-like, from the writer's solitary mind. Gifted with an irreverent humor, Estes revels in the absurdities of domestic life ('I contest the equation...that a nursery / is where babies sleep / not where babies get made') and conjures up Dickinson and Plath to get himself through birthing classes. Before we're done laughing, however, he's pried up the melancholy edge of that same life with its misunderstandings ('we practice our perfection / the way a buzzard, / when it believe no one listens / will crash through the branches / and attack, attack, attack'), miscarriages ('our lost baby, our would-be who would-not-be / who will miss the seventh moon's expected swell / but asks for no condolences'), and the inevitable 'breaking of all that is breakable.' Within the taut lines of Kingdom Come
, life's disparate possibilities crumble and reunite again to form a tenuous harmony, an ironic, unexpected joy.
An Eighth Day View:
Poetry. "These are the poems of the perplexed. More specifically, they are the poems of the perplexed but good-humored, the perplexed but well-disposed--an all but forgotten species of intellectual whose lineage includes Chesterton, Orwell, and Lippmann. They are, moreover, poems that treat domestic life--life in common--with due respect, and with intermittent awe. John Estes has employed a remarkable range of learning, and remarkable skill in shaping these lines, and pressing them into service"--Scott Cairns.