Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Fall

I'm not sure what to say about this one, but I've gotten quite a few positive responses about baby poems lately, so here's another one. Our daughter Nora is just fine, but she did take a small tumble a while ago (when I should have been watching her). After the initial panic and subsequent relief were over, writing a poem seemed inevitable. There have been more harmless mishaps since, so this one feels quite far off in time, and I'm not sure the comination of pathos and naïve disappointment at the end still works for me.


The Fall

The moment before she fell, the world
stood still—uncertain as to little girls’
relationship to gravity.
Her father, sleeping, had set her free
to question the laws of the universe.
She felt the light, sustaining force
of pillows, fought inertia, turned
her energy to velocity, warned
the edge of the bed that a massing urge
to roll over once more was emerging.
The empty space permitted this
experiment, so she persisted.
She tumbled, but the tears didn’t come
until we found her, lying on
her belly, and picked her up to see
what happened, why she couldn’t fly.

6 Comments:

Blogger polarpaul said...

I would leave out the "why she couldn’t fly" at the end. It seems like it introduces a whole new set of ideas. I think the whole gravity aspect works better by itself.

I don't like some of your line break choices. I'd do the following:

The moment before she fell,
the world stood still--
uncertain as to little girls’
relationship to gravity.

Her father, sleeping, had set her free
to question the laws of the universe.
She felt the light, sustaining force
of pillows, fought inertia, turned
her energy to velocity, warned
the edge of the bed that a massing urge
to roll over once more was emerging.

The empty space permitted this experiment,
so she persisted.
She tumbled,
but the tears didn’t come until we found her,
lying on her belly,
and picked her up to see
what happened.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Victor Schnickelfritz said...

Paul's line breaks do coincide more with the notion of the end-stop. The lines are more bite-sized, more manageable. No enjambment except for stanza two where you manage the line breaks very well I think.

This is where the action occurs, so the enjambed lines provide more of sense of urgency attained via read-through.

The last line I object to as well, but for different reasons. It seems a little too cute. Perhaps that's what baby poems are supposed to do, be all cuddly and fuzzy and invite an "Awwww" at the end. This is the kind of cloying presentation that might have drawn stares from poets in the past, might have even earned the label of "sentimental" in the past as well. This was why it was always warned to be careful about writing about one's own family. It's easy to go to that place of sweetness. Is there anything to differentiate this kind of tale from what might be offered as an anecdote at the family get-together after church? Perhaps I'm being too snide (it has been known to happen). Then again, the easily recognizable emotion and ol'soft shoe are in these days.

Another way to read this is to acknowledge that Brad is projecting his "failure motif" on Nora. Can one raise a child as a successful failure, based on your own prototype? I'm from a family where self-effacing humor was the standard. this kind of humor doesn't play so well in America, I'm afraid. We're not about exploiting our own vulverabilities. That's where other people come into the picture.

So then it is true that all of us have children in order to pin the blame on them for what we ourselves could not accomplish or did not possess. Already I blame my youngest son (the one most like me) for his lack of social skills, for his penchant to scour the floors of retail establishments looking for loose change while he gets his pants dirty (he found 32 cents at IKEA today). Doesn't he know to act like a proper little boy of his station? Whether children fail to fly or sweep the floor with every fiber of their being, we must punish them for their (read "our") transgressions.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Thanks for the comments, fellows. It's interesting you should comment on the lineation, because I have previously contemplated divvying up the lines as follows:


The Fall

The moment before
she fell, the world
stood still—
uncertain as to little girls’
relationship to gravity.
Her father, sleeping,
had set her free
to question the laws
of the universe.
She felt the light,
sustaining force
of pillows,
fought inertia, turned
her energy
to velocity, warned
the edge of the bed
that a massing urge
to roll over once more
was emerging.
The empty space
permitted this
experiment,
so she persisted.
She tumbled,
but the tears didn’t come
until we found her,
lying on her belly,
and picked her up to see
what happened,
why she couldn’t fly.

Indeed, I'm now not sure why I preferred the longer version I posted two days ago, except that the determined verticality of this thinner version seemed perhaps too mimetic of the titular "fall." But now with two comments, I'm rethinking my position.

I'm intrigued by polarpaul's version, but it leaves the middle portion of the poem unchanged. I'm not sure why the beginning and end should change, but not the middle. I will also confess to a knee-jerk preference for some regularity in the line lengths. I feel that a poem by me is either short-winded (short, 1-or-2-beat lines) or longer-winded (4-beat lines).

I can't cut the last line entirely, for formal reasons. It fleshes out the rhythm (I need 3 more beats there). "Fly" also offers a slant-rhyme of sorts with "see" and so if it's too mawkish or "cute" as Vic Schnick suggest I'll have to find an alternative. I do think the idea of flying has been prepared for, though, by all the talk of gravity and sustaining forces earlier on.

Again, though, my gratitude for taking the poem and blog seriously enough to comment.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

This is for Graham, in case the email I sent him doesn't go through:

Thanks very much for your emails, Graham! I appreciate the kind words. Unfortunately, my dissertation isn't available online; it hasn't been published, and is sitting in the Stanford library somewhere. Still, here's the MLA listingl, in case you can use interlibrary loans to get a look.

Author(s): Buchanan, Bradley William
Title: Oedipus Disfigured: Myth, Humanism and Hybridity in Modernist Anglo-American and Post-Colonial Literature
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences 62, no. 10 (2002 Apr): p. 3386 Acronym: DAIA MLA Directory of Periodicals
Dissertation: Stanford U; 2001 Abstract No.: DA3028075
Standard No: ISSN: 0419-4209
Language: English
Peer Reviewed: No
SUBJECT(S)
Descriptor: British and Irish literatures - 1900-1999 - fiction - and prose - by modernist writers - treatment of Oedipus - relationship to hybridity - compared to Nigerian literature - French literature
Nigerian literature - 1900-1999 - fiction - and prose - by modernist writers - treatment of Oedipus - relationship to hybridity - compared to British and Irish literatures - French literature
Document Type: dissertation abstract
Update: 200201
Accession No: 2002401484; MLA Sequence No: 2002-1-271--2002-2-22709
Database: MLA



i do have a few online articles about my topic (Oedipus) in various places, though. One that is fairly easy to find is:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=519_636_1069_647&products_id=14767

I could probably fish out other urls if you'd like.

And you're more than welcome to come to Sac State and take a class!

yours, Brad

9:15 AM  
Blogger Atasi Jaan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Atasi Jaan said...

Brad, I like this very much. I don't agree that the last line is too cute. As for me, I don't have children, so it is a needed ending, to end so imaginative and tidy. (I do think this is why some of us don't have children, for fear of our unexpressed mutations coming out in our offspring.) The first is the preferred version, however, I felt jarred by the line starting where "she felt the light," maybe the comma is too much, and I don't like the image of pillows adjacent to the "sustaining force, or light" it seems too incongruent. I don't like pillows in poems. Thanks for the lovely writing.

5:10 PM  

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