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Poems that Span the Void:
David Zieroth's the bridge from day to night

David Zieroth, the bridge from day to night
Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2018.

David Zieroth’s latest book of poetry, “the bridge from day to night,” begins with the daily observations of a poet crossing the Second Narrows Bridge on his route to and from work. Included in the first section are everyday scenes from a typical Vancouver commute―a man curled up on the sidewalk, ships passing under a bridge, a few blades of grass growing in a crack, and an unexpected run-in with an aggressive dog―but Zieroth skillfully takes these observations past their obvious conclusions and lands the reader someplace unexpected:

the tallest branches of
alders click in a code
no one gets anymore.

The narrator wonders if a man he sees reading a book on his commute will reach “a clearing… the apprehension / announced by his sudden sigh / recognizing a true place.” Elsewhere, he doesn’t ask a homeless man to change or “even demand / he learn anew how to look / at our passing faces,” while an incident with a dog named Lucifer takes the narrator to a moment of deep self-reflection. We find in this book poems from a poet who is living his daily life, not a poet who is searching for the latest issue to hang his hat on, nor a poet who has picked out a theme with which to manufacture a book. “the bridge from day to night” is filled with authentic poems.

Zieroth’s poems begin at the bridge, and like a bridge’s architecture, they find their energy at the base and then fly off over the void―what John Lent calls Zieroth’s “springboard lines.” The effect is powerful, drawing the reader across and down the page:

midway in their transient time
lilacs tease with scent, remind me
I am an earth-thing: fully here
even when traveling toward not-to-be.

Zieroth is an accomplished poet, and has written more than a dozen books of poetry, receiving both the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and a Governor General’s award. “the bridge from day to night” is not a book that can be read quickly; its poems are packed with images and ideas that will cause you to stop, stare out a window, and ponder where they’re taking you.

Zieroth starts on the bridge and journeys toward surreal dreams mixed with childhood memories, straight into the heart of grief and death. On the way the poet tries to make sense of his past. Of his father, he finally comes to understand:

…I grasped at last the matter most
precious between us: that we were alike
in our bodies, our girths and ears, our way
of walking, of holding back, his particulars
bequeathed, manifested, let loose in me.

And of his mother he remembers “such hands unprotected in / hard acts never hardened their touch on me.” Throughout the entire book, Zieroth carries us over to the unknowable, the mystical, to a “silence / across which no words reach.” “the bridge from day to night” is a book to be savoured, and begs the reader to take the poet’s journey across the bridge.

Al Rempel’s books of poetry are Undiscovered Country, This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For, Understories, and two chapbooks: Four Neat Holes and The Picket Fence Diaries. His poems have also appeared in journals such as The Malahat Review, CV2, and Event as well as in various anthologies, most recently in Heartwood. He can be found at alrempel.com.

ARC HITS THE HEART HARD.