Arranged in three parts, Harming Others moves from a mock heroic voice in "The Empire Poems" to a more intimate voice in "The Damaged Poems," one that speaks to friends on their birthdays, wedding days, ordinary days. The book culminates in "The Forbidden Poems"--a retelling of the stories of the Old and New Testaments, a reshaping of religion and history in the present. The burden of human sin, like the weight of human history, is described in "Sin"--Like the blue, unreasonable sheets of ice / that spread out, strong and beautiful, / along the spines of the groaning rivers, / for years our sins covered us / and the parents of us: so cold / if you breathed on them they grew / still colder. For years our limbs clacked / with the weight of them. Our shoulder / blades and the noisy, matted locks / of our hair shook with the sound / of them. For years they hung from our / bones or piled up like heaps of blood. . . .
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