Yeats, in his passionate search for a theme, combed Irish history, and from the start of his career, Robert Hayden has been engaged with the American sojourn of the black man. A good number of these poems have been selected from his first collection, A Ballad of Remembrance, which includes a long, passionate and dramatic description of the slave trade, ""Middle Passage,"" as well as a poem in homage to Billie Holiday, a ballad for Nat Turner and another for Frederick Douglass. The Civil War poems are also notable. Selections from Hayden's second collection include the title poem, ""Words in the Mourning Time,"" written after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in the burn-baby-burn era, ""El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz,"" (Malcolm X to you) and a particularly bluesy commemoration of ""Soledad."" Over the years, Hayden has become a more laconic, self-contained writer and the nine new poems here are all bare bones, necessity and restraint. The title is drawn from his retelling of that wonderful short story by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, ""A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,"" and describes the moment of the old man's escape. There are poems about his ancestral beginnings, for his Egyptian forebears; one for Sojourner Truth and four tight, elliptical lines about Crispus Attucks, ""Name in a footnote, Faceless name./ Moot hero. . . propped up/ by bayonets, forever falling.