For the Love of Endings by Ben Purkert
Four Way Books, 2018; 74 pp
Reviewed by Michael Levan
Ben Purkert’s For the Love of Endings is quiet until it isn’t. It invites the reader to follow along as each poem questions what’s left to celebrate right up until it demands her to be accountable. The collection is a balancing act between tranquility and ire against the world’s dying light.
Take the speaker of “Times the Whole World by Zero.” He laments, “The sun / remains the last place I can go / for warmth.” But after just one beat of silence with this period, the line continues and then works to the poem’s conclusion: “I’ll work a little / bomb into this page.” The distance between the emotions seems so vast, but between the understated adjective “little” and the enjambment, the finale’s explosion becomes more resonant, an even stronger call to action.
We are reminded that we, the readers, are part of the creation of this book. We must recognize this role because our mutual survival depends on it. In the title poem’s concluding section, we meet violence: “I like my poems to look me in the eye. They should know / their father, know where to stick the knife.” But then:
When I’m gone,
the thing I’ll miss is missing, is describing the world I miss.
So much depends upon you, reader. Look how these words
lean on you, not even knowing your name.
The poem reveals just how intimate the act of reading is. These words mean nothing without the “you” to read them, to process them, to hold onto them in the hope this shared moment can bridge the time and space that divides us. It’s what gives us courage and faith. It’s what gives us our humanity.
For the Love of Endings never leaves us comfortable, but the poems don’t end without hope, either. Even if we don’t end up where we expect, that doesn’t mean we haven’t found the path we were always meant to be on, as the book’s final poem, “In Zero Gravity,” reveals:
The truth is
sailing across the sea & the sadness of
not wrecking. I remember the boats
upon boats. If one fills with water,
it veers away
from what it knows,
starts a new life entirely.