Like Wind Loves a Window
by Andrea Baker
Slope Editions, $14.95 (paper)

Andrea Baker’s astonishing Like Wind Loves a Window takes the intimately familiar—home, bird, wind—and returns it to us transfigured. But to make too much of the poet’s play with familiarity would be to underestimate the deep and stunning strangeness of this debut collection. Baker is at once uncannily certain (“An echo is a mountain”) and constantly questioning, and she ranges seamlessly from the impossible to the commonplace. The goal of the collection is, ostensibly, to achieve some insight into human interaction, or, as Baker puts it, to “try to / understand behavior like our own.” As readers, we never lose sight of the heart-rending urgency of one of the book’s central questions: “what is it to slip and what is it to yield?” For Baker, ultimately a poet of control, such compromises have no small stakes. She shows us time and again the exigency of the situation she has set out to investigate: “let me tell you there were hands clinging to themselves / everywhere,” and, later, “The surrender was immeasurable.” Because Baker’s examination is both fierce and generous, she successfully places pressure on our assumptions, which she questions directly in the few moments that approach narrative address: “There are too many references / for a mother’s love and none of them say: // product of my sexual love, this is my child.” And shortly thereafter: “each rote sunset has a moment / day // catches itself collapsing // and no one has ever called / the procedure / by name.” At the center of this collection the ordinary commingles with the extraordinary, the “small fact of [our] life on the block” with the simultaneous mystery of our existence “in the long black glow.” These poems lead us along the wild and “errant edge” of understanding, and we are left where the poet places us, to “walk into the morning from off / the bed.”