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The Past Keeps Changing

New York: Sheep Meadow Press, 1992.

This Book can be puchased on

listen Listen to Chana Bloch reading "Eating Babies"

listen David Del Tredici's setting of "Eating Babies"
from his song-cycle Chana's Story (1998)

listen Listen to Chana Bloch reading "The Stutter"

listen David Del Tredici's setting of "The Stutter" from Chana's Story

listen Listen to Chana Bloch reading "Rising to Meet It"

Rising to Meet It

Pain is the salty element.

All that night I lay
tethered to my breathing. To the pain,
the fixed clock-stare of the walls,
the fingers
combing my tangled hair.
Ride out the waves, the doctor said.

The first time I touched a man,
what startled me more than the pleasure
was knowing what to do.
I turned to him with
a motion so firm it must have been
forming inside me
before I was born.

I was swimming upstream, the body
solid, bucking for breath, slippery,
wet. An ocean
rolled off my shoulders.
Tonight, strapped to the long night, I miss
the simple
pain of childbirth––

No, not the pain
but that rising to meet it like a body
reaching out in desire, buoyant, athletic,
sure of its power.

"This is remarkable, unforgettable work. . . . What is at work here is a double intelligence: intelligence of perception, the capacity to notice not simply what is arresting or lends itself to rich description, but rather the canny astuteness and attentiveness one finds in the great novelists, the gift for seeing the profound, the illuminating detail. Added to, simultaneous with this gift, is the more complex faculty . . . I would call formal intelligence, a capacity to re-envision and re-shape the units of poetical speech, the phrase, the stanza, the sentence, to charge with vitality every enjambment, every period. Virtuosity seems an odd word to use in connection with a poetry so outwardly direct and natural, but it is the term Bloch's command of syntax compels me to use." -- Louise Glück

"What one comes to cherish in Chana Bloch's poems are moments of dreamlike beauty, quickness, and strangeness, that not only clarify but immensely deepen a common theme -- the mixed pain and joy of intimate connections." -- Alan Williamson

"[The Past Keeps Changing] succeeds with a crystalline, finely wrought clarity that avoids brittleness or despair. . . . Bloch writes herself into and out of a haunted domestic landscape that mirrors the psychic extremities of womanliness, spirituality, and memory -- what it means to be a woman in the world. . . . Bloch is a poetic alchemist: in giving form to her experience, she makes lucid the mythic risks of surviving one's own memory. . . . She is able to name, catalogue, own the story of the fluid self." -- Dorothy Barresi, American Book Review

"Bloch is a poet of the rigorous lyric tradition. . . . Each word seems pulled into the poem out of a ringing silence. Though these poems come from the domestic center, they are not mild, not safe, and are never predictable. Bloch's voice links a lucid simplicity of statement with a depth of thought that is hard won. Everything is earned in her world and the earning confers a purity on the poems -- they are scrubbed and shiny. It is as if cloudy windows suddenly have been rubbed with vinegar, revealing a sensed but hidden landscape in heightened aspect and precision." -- Frances Mayes, San Jose Mercury News

"What a life shines from these pages! A woman's life -- filled with hunger and need, little patches of happiness, grit and endurance, the uses of pain. . . . The Secrets of the Tribe delighted us with its wise and tender images of the human condition. Now in this new collection, Chana Bloch continues to explore and transform secrets with more courage than ever. . . . 'There's no way to change / without touching / the space at the center of everything,' she writes. Chana Bloch has touched that space." -- Shirley Kaufman