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Linda Pastan’s Insomnia

Just the title alone would be enough to make this book resonate with me. But it’s also by Linda Pastan, who wrote “An Early Afterlife,” and — so far as I’m concerned — could have retired after that and still stayed at the top of my list.

Instead, we have Insomnia (Norton, 2015). As Pastan grows older — she is 83  (“Why are these old, gnarled trees / so beautiful, while I am merely / old and gnarled?”) — her themes turn toward long marriage, illness, sleepness nights. She has always handled domestic subjects — like death — deftly, with grace and accuracy. Her eye is as sharp as ever.

Consider the Space Between Stars

Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
these vanishing years, filled with light.