Guest poem submitted by Adam Gitner:
(Poem #951) Wife Poem
And it's clear at last, she dropped down from the moon, not like some sylphy Cynthia at Delphi, after all she's not seventeen, but with the sexual grace and personal implacability of a goddess of our time; so he says to himself at night seeing the glow of her sleep in her half (two-thirds really) of their bed, the claire de lune of her shoulder and forehead behind the deep clouds of her hair. He drinks his wine and swallows more pills. The birds make their first aubade, little chirps and chitterings, and outside the first light mists their window. The day will be awful, nervy and dull and sullen. His last cigarette, his final gulp of chardonnay, and he presses against her warm glow, thinking of how he swam as a boy of twelve in the warm pond beyond the elms and hickories at the meadow's edge. He turned like a sleepy carp among the water lilies, under the dragonflies and hot clouds of the old days of summer.
You've run Carruth before and here as usual is his particular New England maturity. He's such a technician with the lines; one hand continually pulling you forward, the other deftly assembling the landscape. In another poem "Ray" he compares the poetic mind to a bucket of minnows. If they are minnows he's slapping together on this poem, it's some shellac that holds them together. Though there's no consistent meter I can tell, there's an abiding if intangible sense of poetic rhythm. Lines tend to lapse into iambs but slip out of hand too quickly to hold. Other lines have an elusive rhyme, as in how the words "sylphy Cynthia at Delphi" echo back to each other softly reduced. Reduction is a key to this poem, as is the weakness of an echo. The narrator seems to live in a world with the lights set permanently on dim. His only display of strength is in a few lines that end in strong iambs, like "she dropped", "His last", "a boy", "beyond", and "among" that carry you over the enjambment and onto the next line. Yet even this give the impression of the narrator's ultimate weakness in the way it mimics the sound of a lame foot dragging only intermittently, or the rasp of a labored breath heaving in the lungs then falling silent on the next line. It begs comparison with the resolution of the meter in Tennyson's "Ulysses". The moon, Diana, Cynthia, or Selene as Keats called her, hangs in the backdrop of this poem and is frequently contrasted with the day: in imagery, surely Carruth was aware of the juxtaposition of Delphi the center of worship of Apollo with Cynthia; in form, the way the first and last half of the poem are consumed with dreaming while the middle displays a shift in diction to the concrete (cigarette, gulp of chardonnay, chirps, birds, and first light). His wife is consistently identified with the moon from the initial simile, to the "claire de lune" of her shoulder, and the "clouds" of her hair. I can only assume that the poet is familiar with Keats' previous treatment of the Moon falling in love with the shepherd Endymion in his epic of the same name. A quote from Bulfinch's _Mythology_ is relevant: "The story of Endymion has a peculiar charm from the human meaning which it so thinly veils. We see in Endymion the young poet, his fancy and his heart seeking in vain for that which can satisfy them, finding his favourite hour in the quiet moonlight, and nursing there beneath the beams of the bright and silent witness the melancholy and the ardour which consume him. The story suggests aspiring and poetic love, a life spent more in dreams than in reality, and an early and welcome death." -- ([broken link] http://www.bulfinch.org/fables/bull26.html). To the narrator the night is the soft echo of day just as the dream is the embrace opposite "nervy" reality. Our narrator lives in this wistful cocoon which is not a cocoon as should precede maturity but one that slips on long after. It verges on inexpressible for me to describe how Carruth brings out the similarities between dreamy adolescence and dreamy old age, moving between night and day with the effort of a brushstroke or how the end comes not with the ringing tone of a rhyming couplet or the beating finality of consistent meter but with a simple, falling trochee. - Adam Gitner [Minstrels Links] Hayden Carruth: Poem #684, Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey Poem #774, Ray John Keats: Poem #12, On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer Poem #182, La Belle Dame Sans Merci Poem #316, Ode to a Nightingale Poem #433, Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell Poem #575, To Mrs Reynolds' Cat Poem #696, Last Sonnet Poem #770, A Thing of Beauty is a Joy for Ever Poem #910, On the Grasshopper and the Cricket Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Poem #15, The Eagle (a fragment) Poem #31, Break, break, break Poem #80, The Brook (excerpt) Poem #121, Ulysses Poem #355, Charge of the Light Brigade Poem #653, Ring Out, Wild Bells Poem #825, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, Now the White Poem #852, Mariana in the Moated Grange Poem #896, The Kraken