In a Special Light

It’s tempting to focus on ELROY BODE ’s celebrations of life’s simple pleasures (birds, interesting strangers, barbershops) in this El Pasoan’s new collection of microscopically short ruminations, IN A SPECIAL LIGHT . But there is no denying the insistent melancholy (verging on depression) that gives the book grit and balance. Bode cuts a solitary figure throughout: He’s a lonely divorcé at the grocery buying a can of unnecessary peas; he’s a walking man traipsing the poor streets of East Austin and the rocky riverbeds of the Hill Country. His physical remove seems to sharpen his gift for summoning poetry out of the pedestrian, whether it’s a tiny poisoned mouse at his hunting cabin or a gay high schooler’s identity crisis (Bode taught in Texas public schools for 48 years). But it is the eloquent, unvarnished heartbreak of the concluding piece, “Looking for Byron,” that makes closing the cover a bittersweet finale.

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