Review of Heaven’s Thieves
From Mariianne Mays , Herizons, spring 2017, Vol. 30, No. 4

Poetry Snapshots – Heaven’s Thieves by Sue Sinclair

Heaven’s Thieves by Sue Sinclair also extracts precious light from shadow. Her artful dance recognizes the potential danger in such quarrying and pilfering, the relentless, flickering tension “Between Heaven and Earth,” as the title of one poem proclaims. The human strain is exemplified by “Brink,” which reads: “The sky a battered blue./ Surviving./ The city awake and looking around as if/ it felt a plate shift underground.// Because it’s hard to forget where you are sometimes./ Because nothing here is fastened down./ Because the sky is pulled so tight it will soon tear/ and you’ll see what I mean.”

Like many in the collection, the exquisite title poem is ekphrastic, borrowing from other arts as if to illustrate that all life is a mere transitory marvel; the poem’s subject is the still life painting of Pieter Claesz (1597–1660). “The fish, a drizzled oily silver,/ dozes beside crusts of white bread,” it begins. “A cluster of grapes overflows/ its goblet … bored/ like every other painted thing, as though the game/ has been played,// as though I could pluck the knife from the carved frame…. // The light is Promethean: let it pour over you, let it shine in the eyes/ of whoever looks your way, let even the damage gleam and be satisfied….// Betrayal is in the air. But impossible to steal// from rich for poor without a little of this, and there are beauties/ willing to do the job./ I mean the beauty that’s willing to sleep its way out of a tough situation,/ willing to not-quite-die for its cause. Even the grapes,/ even the half-peeled lemon: lying there brazenly, clothed in stolen bounty, flaunting their ill-begotten skins.”

Further explanation is found in “Reply to Rilke,” which responds to the poem’s epigraph, a quote from Rilke: “… They wanted to flower,/ and flowering is being beautiful. But we want to ripen,/ and that means being dark and taking pains.” In Sinclair’s words, “To ripen means remembering/ how each flower opened then faded,/ its face full of sun, the fruit/ its gravestone./ It means being dark and taking pains.”

Brick Books Newsletter

Stay updated via email!