random unisons

Best of all, I like the way he tells stories. In “Random Unisons,” the poems of Daniel Harris have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and I’m always eager to find out how they end.

For instance, Class Project,

Imagine their surprise, those four second-grade children grouped
at a classroom table. With a little hand each one grips
the single, fat, foot-long pencil the teacher’s brought today for a project — its yellow shaft almost hid under fists.

At the end —
. . . the kids (grown up), their hands and wrists maybe interlocked
for a fireman’s carry, or other random unison.

Harris puts his writerly technique to saying things that are worth saying, like chronicling the poignant arc of a life. Dancer opens with

His day job? “It’s just blech,” he natters, crap
to pay for his nightlife: work at the barre,
taking class, my lines.” But his feet can’t skip
past his plod on the cold concrete at the store;

The poem follows the man’s performing career, but then his physical powers dwindle so at the end he is a teacher of the next young dancers:

Inheritors, his; from counter or desk
they come, tingling to practice arts of risk.

He talks of death, and love, and common things, like bees, as in Driving Home from Stockton, New Jersey:

All summer we see them: honeybees
under brightest suns toiling, well into dusk;
they scout, tinker with blooms of lavenders,
sunflower, mint — then bear the rich daubs
of nectar back to the common hive.
So too,
these long black nights, workers fix roadways,
in heavy black jackets striped with yellow…

My favorites are the poems of love. They allow a place for imagining.

Though I have heard of Daniel Harris, and his passion for social justice, we have never actually met — except through these poems. I recommend it for bedside table contemplation.

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