In his second collection, Casteen moves inward from the physical labor and vernacular culture that shaped his first book, Free Union, yet continues to focus on landscape and human relationships. With poems arranged in the order in which they were completed (which in large part reflects the order in which they were first written), Casteen presents a poetic record of the experiences of solitude, marriage, fatherhood, loss, and recovery. The Carolina chickadee can be heard in this work, but so can Emmylou Harris singing with Gram Parsons; these poems dwell in the music of language, the hard truths of those who are no longer young, and the pleasures of the reflective life.
From “For the Mountain Laurel”:
Canny scantling. It’s good at what it’s good at.
I’m trying hard to clear my head, to think
without language, to remember that whole life
before the adjective. Don’t forget: the shadow moves
more than you move, and intends less. Overhead,
contrails sinter where jets just passed, just ice
windblown like seed where stars are what belongs.
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