The poem “Explorer’s Notes,” from A.F. Moritz’s follow-up to his 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize–winning collection, The Sentinel, begins, “I came to another ruin and fell into a dream.” The dream Moritz is writing out of, and simultaneously about, derives from the realm of archetype, a realm in which, as the poem “In the Food Court” puts it, “Everything that comes has come before / but in some other, forgotten shape”. For Moritz, the food court is not a simple bricks-and-mortar place but a sempiternal setting for human commerce. The bird that the poem’s narrator spies “in the foliage / of the big mirrors cladding the sides / of the square pillar” could as well be twittering away on a branch in Eden.
In fact, one of the connective strands among many of these poems is the notion of the loss of innocence or advent of a new age. “[I]n their hearts is the image of a better time,” Moritz writes in – it’s worth noting – a poem entitled “Eve.” The very next poem’s speaker stands out in the rain, like Adam before the Fall, naked and unashamed: “[H]ow well / my nakedness understands it,” he says.
Often Moritz’s poems manifest post-Edenic existence as post-apocalyptic vision. In one instance, a man stands “ready to receive / a tan from the bomb burst before the blast wave approached / and his body exploded like a dry tree when a wildfire / creeps close down a slope.” The alliterative force at work here detonates like a nuclear weapon. Paradise is not lost to us, Moritz suggests; it has been razed entirely.
And yet, there remains the possibility of redemption. In “The Cold: A Testament,” the last man remaining after the apocalypse finds comfort in the literature of his lost civilization, even in the prophets who “looked forward and pitied” his lonely vigil. “I love my poor world,” he explains. “I’m here. I’m glad / they didn’t smash the earth to void their fear / of the long slow decay.” This is Moritz surveying our own fraught world: horrified, perhaps, but fiercely loyal. Here and elsewhere, The New Measures articulates with great artistry its author’s profound concern and abiding love for the human race.