god’s breath hovering across the waters begins with the story of Arthur Penzias’ discovery of the echo of the big bang through a cryogenic microwave receiver and from there explodes into a meditation on the author’s mother’s untimely and tragic death. Memories, history, war, science, horror movies, space exploration, and the RCA dog are just some of the subjects that expand and contract, intersect and repel, throughout the arc of the collection.
from “Depraved Cogitation,” from god’s breath hovering across the waters:
…The boys in the movie get their comeuppance
in a dazzling display of gore and carnage.
Gavrilo Princip died in prison, a painful death by tuberculosis.
The boy in my first grade class grew up
to be a certified public accountant.
And I, even after becoming an orphan at forty-two—
got off easy. Easy as pie.
True enough. But everyone has a zombie tied up
in the basement. And one day it will bite
someone you love, and then she will be a zombie,
slowly rotting as you bring her gifts,
brush her hair, rub cream on her dry, brittle skin,
and make sweet, sweet love to her.
“With the earnestness of an Old Testament prophet, Henry Israeli traverses personal and historical tragedy—arguing, beseeching. In a brilliant move, Israeli writes, ‘god blows my hair back with his hot breath, / god with a capital G.’ There are many such moments of delight in this deadly serious book. I urge anyone who loves to read to get god’s breath hovering across the waters.” — Noelle Kocot
“Henry Israeli’s titular god—lower case g—is a being who must be addressed, supplicated, and scolded; also a being who has been stripped of his capital letter as an army officer is stripped of his insignia and demoted. The poems in god’s breath hovering across the waters themselves hover, and also dart, full of the world, and full of alert, sometimes pugnacious private sorrow. Israeli’s vision is slant, arresting, and at times, almost out of nowhere, celebratory.” — Daisy Fried
“Such lovely doubts in these poems. Doubt and wonderful sudden flights into connection.” — Bob Hicok
“Israeli is visceral and brilliant, intransigent in his doubts.’’ — D. Nurkse
“The poems in god’s breath hovering across the waters achieve a gentle balance between frankness and tenderness, and explore the complications of survival: of trying to forget the inevitable while insisting on remembering who and what deserves to be remembered.”— Rain Taxi Review of Books