Lily Poetry Review: Little What by Jeff Oaks

Little What

Little What

Little What by Jeff Oaks. Includes shipping and handling in the USA


Praise for Little What

The poems in ‘Little What’ map a sustained devotion to small details that, under the poet’s attentive scrutiny, blossom repeatedly into surprise and wonder. Jeff Oaks understands the longing and distance that persist even in close physicality, and the mystery that can arise from the familiar. Take, for example, the poem “Sunflower”: the transfer from it to us is gorgeous yet careful, as in full of care. I’ve waited so long for this book to arrive in the world. Savor it. —Ron Mohring, author of Survivable World

Salt, parsnips, violets, bees with their dance-map of the city—common everyday objects fill these marvelous poems that build themselves like row houses, row houses of wonder with their “little song of nails.” And too there is a formal searching—from sapphics to sonnets—always rigorous in its investigation and always leading us to insight. Here, we find manifestos to queerness as well as a necessary revising of masculinity and the male body—re-telling the personal and cultural stories of brothers, sons, and fathers while asking, trenchantly and with Rilke-like imploring, that we “begin again. —Brandon Som, author of Babel’s Moon and The Tribute Horse

Sample Poems from Little What by Jeff Oaks


We don’t have a good name for what

weakens the shell, cracks it open, makes us

step out into the light. First bees with

their powdered legs then small sparrows who

rain down seed-slivers over the sidewalk.

Why stand out here staring at the great flower

grown in a pot I nearly threw away? It

has a kind of stature for all its luck I

might say I lack. Although I am here

watching small birds remove each seed

with the cunning of jewelers.  With all

the courage to continue. Without a name

for any of the things they don’t have.



Little Night Song

Sometimes I wake up thinking it’s

someone trying the lock on the front door

in the middle of the night but

it’s only the dog muttering something, rattling

his jaws at the end of the bed. Sometimes I

think it’s rain but it’s only the black dog

I rescued to keep me from thinking

certain kinds of thoughts. Often

I have to listen a long time until

I make out what it is that’s there

in the room with me, a hot

fear that rises up immediately

and out of an old reason I still call

my father. Because he set my nerves

so early on to terror, to hide.

But listen, honestly, he’s dead now,

and I’m old enough to take him on,

so how long can I continue to name

everything after him, call him the cause

of everything gone bad? Every day

the news brings stories of abuse

that make my childhood seem lucky.

And if I have this dog who occasionally

sounds like creaky stairs,

a jiggled knob, a kind of rain hitting

the window like small gravel, it is only

a memory of threat. If I were so concerned

that my father’s here, I could

just walk downstairs to find him

smoking and drinking his coffee black,

sit down at the table in that darkness

and relax. He liked the quiet;

he drank it in. Maybe it’s who else

might be at my table now that worries me.