Stories That Listen
Stories That Listen practices a careful empiricism, offering a science of the human, a way to understand the world through watching and listening: “The sound as when your foot / breaks through the snow, / that sound was in the house.” Becker’s poems are as much in the Eastern European tradition of Eugene Jebeleanu or Daniel Simko as the American tradition of George Oppen. They emerge from a desire to find “the right way / to describe the want / to stand by,” they side with apartness, “the first fragment of division, / the private room.” Out of apartness comes a way of being in the world through observation, and observation leads equally to philosophical certainty (“It is a mistake to call logic / cold; it has no temperature at all”) as to the odd, almost surreal faith by which “I left my toenails at the beach, hoping / they would grow another body. / I would return with a better, / more expressive face.” Quirky, at times outright funny, always wise, Stories That Listen is a resonant, rewarding read. These are stories that listen—and to which we would all do well to listen.
I think I prefer now being unloved
and listening for my footsteps in the dark.
There was a tree in the yard —
not any more —
whose crooked branch I’d watch.
I held a ceremony in which I married
There is a certain smell
that overtakes me, for instance
once, in a button shop.
And then I came to disregard.
Also a kind of nakedness
that has to do with words.
I made a list
of things I’d like. I tied
a string. The sound as when your foot
breaks through the snow,
that sound was in the house.