Monday, May 16, 2005

next installment

Despite the interesting suggestion that I should wait for the child to be born to start writing about it, I persist in thinking that poetry can and should be an anticipation of experience as well as a way of remembering it. After all, I haven't died yet, but have written many poems about death, and plan to write many more. Besides, there have to be some rewards for choosing poetry over journalism...

So, in stout defense of my right to jump the gun, this is another part of that ongoing poem. It works with some newly aquired diction about childbirth itself, in perhaps the same way that "The Fighting Horses" was leaning heavily on anatomical terms:


Expand on the contractions, lend
a voice to the cries that are heading your way,
crown those shudders with an aura of calm
that comes from speech, whether truth or lie.
Shift your position as often as needed
to satisfy the emerging statement
of hope, the faithless fidelity
of expecting a child who can only die
at last, who makes you live faster, to choose
that early oblivion for your own
to get there before someone you love enough
to leave in charge of the world you saved
by putting it into words, maybe like
these, or maybe completely other-
wise. Let that separate wisdom breathe
its own amazement, catch some airs
from nowhere, wait for the shape to flop out,
slippery, powerless, covered with wax.
Unseal the message and let it uphold
its limbs like a herald’s trumpet, unfold
in the light to stretch once and resound
with a rival’s arrival—the name that precedes
us wherever we go. Let the last word follow
her closely, become who she’ll be till she finds
someone else who swear himself blue in the face
for her peace of mind, for the sake of next birth.

Now that I've typed it up and reread it, it strikes me that may just be a complete poem I haven't managed to title yet and so am tempted to tuck into the larger structure I've committed to here. So I'm hoping that a) I'll get some suggestions for a title and find ways to make this stand on its own as a separate poem or b) that I can make this work within the same frame as the foregoing 3 sections. It may be too abstract for its own good, but in some ways I think that longish poems can stand some more rhetorical intervals; such pieces tend to lose their lyrical intensity anyway, and don't need to be mere narrative.

P.S. I already have a poem called "The Expectant Father" so that title is out.


Blogger Victor Schnickelfritz said...

This untitled piece is interesting for its effort to plumb the emotional depths of the male psyche at the crucial moment of delivery. But the angst . . . oh my! A line like this:

the faithless fidelity
of expecting a child who can only die
at last

Ouch. That's some grim stuff. You're up to your ass in mortality.

This line tended to bog down for me. I wasn't sure where I was supposed to arrive (maybe I just need to read it a few more times):

to choose
that early oblivion for your own
to get there before someone you love enough
to leave in charge of the world you saved
by putting it into words

I like the shift from "covered with wax" to "Unseal the message and let it uphold its limbs."

That's a lot of pressure on the kid. All it has to be is a revelation. [I take it you're having a girl?]

The name that precedes us wherever we go is the rival's?

I'm not sure the cycle of birth is the right place to end this poem. It seems to deal with the emotional truth of the male persona throughout the most of the piece and the end seems to take it to a place (namely, the cycle of birth and rebirth) that is a little too easy, too obvious. Is there a darker emotional truth that is lingering. To do this, of course, one risks the criticism of dwellling in the mind of the male speaker. That's a definite risk. If it could do this, though, my thinking is that it could be emotionally truer. That's where I sense you want to go anyway.

On another front: I had my interview with the CSUS panel today. It didn't go well from my perspective. I don't know how you guys who actually get jobs do it. God, do I hate those panel interviews. They're so expressionless. You don't know if you're winning or losing. It's a lot like walking through a minefield. You try to keep from saying something that will blow your foot off (get you dismissed). My foot got blown off at about the 21 st minute when I made the comment that non-native speakers tend not to take my native-speaking classes because the reading load is too heavy. Wrong answer. Everyone on the panel jotted down that comment. Even though what I said is true, I guess you can't actually say that. It smacks of discrimination, elitism. To me, it's an elegant way to solve the problem of non-native speakers taking native speaking classes when they would be better off taking ESL classes. Oh, well. Maybe next year. Perhaps I still did OK on the other stuff, but my sense is that the panel is just waiting for you to say something so that you can be eliminated from consideration. God, I hate those fucking interviews. I'm getting really good at leaving a room full of academics feeling underwhelmed. I've made it an art form, one might say.

10:05 PM  

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