One pleasure of art comes from how accurately it can convey ambivalence. In a poem, form can have things both ways at once, emotionally: understated and bold, dark and bright, somber and funny, painful and cool, angry and sympathetic. Here is "Oil & Steel" from Henri Cole's new book:
My father lived in a dirty-dish mausoleum,
watching a portable black-and-white television,
reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
which he preferred to Modern Fiction.
One by one, his schnauzers died of liver disease,
except the one that guarded his corpse
found holding a tumbler of Bushmills.
"Dead is dead," he would say, an anti-preacher.
I took a plaid shirt from the bedroom closet
and some motor oil -- my inheritance.
Once, I saw him weep in a courtroom --