Lately, everything seems to be falling apart. The first time I encountered Evie Shockley’s “sol(ace) song,” the force of that feeling hitched me to the title’s beginning. I read it as a word of comfort dissolving into a pair of lonelinesses: “sol” evoking solitude, “ace” conjuring the image of a card with a single mark on it. But at the heart of the poem, a note of caution stops me, and I wonder: Have I become one of the “one too many ones tuned to their / own inward music”? Pausing to reattune, I find routes that I’d missed: the calming windings of the indented tercets, the recurrence of the long “a” sound (“shade,” “day,” “shaped”) that opens my mouth wide when I read it aloud, as if to sing. Newly alive to the poem’s music, I hear possibility even in “contain” and “unable.” Now I see that “sol” is also the sun—as in “the sound of sun drifting / or driving down through // oak, willow, sycamore”—and “ace” is a beloved one, held by the parentheses’ embrace.
“Is there a way to think about distance that aligns it with difference but doesn’t necessarily align with separation?” the scholar and poet Fred Moten asks. Maybe this is what a song does. Rhythm invites company, an attunement that doesn’t require sameness or the pretense of total transparency. The poem’s final line is a dedication to someone called, simply, “l.” The intimacy is not wholly legible to me, but I can feel its warmth.
– Claire Schwartz
your laugh is a country road, open, made of gravel and shade, much traveled, before this dark day. few things we sojourners have shaped contain so much space — arenas shrink beside its vast invitation — yet remain spilling full. after the passing through of one too many ones tuned to their own inward music, unable to detect the sound of sun drifting or driving down through oak, willow, and sycamore — not on that bright frequency — you (anyone might) start seeing shadow as rain. that water is pain, but is not the end of your road. listen to yourself with the ears of your sisters, who hear you shining, who know right well how a dense green may seem nearly night. — for l.
Evie Shockley is the author, most recently, of semiautomatic, which won the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Recipient of a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, among other honors, she is Professor of English at Rutgers University.