Traveling Light

In her thirteenth collection of poetry, Pastan offers a reflective account of the passage of time. Traveling Light is a meditation on family, change, art, and aging—and the everyday objects and occurrences that become the markers of a life lived. In her recognition of unpredictability, Pastan writes "Our lives have minds of their own." Yet, in another poem she offers, "It is the ordinary that comes to save you." Indeed, as a poet who writes outward, often from domestic scenes, the "ordinary" (clocks, flowers, paintings) becomes infused with meaning—simple objects are powerful. From "Bread":

Now it is time to open
the package of yeast
and moisten it with water,
watching for its fizz,
its blind energy—proofing
it's called, the animate proof
of life.

Moving beyond the home, the third section of Traveling Light takes on war and ideas of patriotism and global anxiety. In "Somewhere in the World," Pastan writes "Wherever I go I knock on wood— / on tabletops or tree trunks. / I rinse my hands over and over again; // I scan the newspapers / and invent alarm codes which are not / my husband's birthdate or my own." Pastan deals with cultural uneasiness, but her grace lightens the heaviness, lending beauty to her subject matter. In "Weights and Measures" Pastan asks, "If a promise weighs more / than a country, does love / weigh more than a promise? / Wouldn't I break my word, / wrap myself in any flag... / just to be with you?"

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.