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The Man into Whose Yard You Should Not Hit Your Ball -- Thomas Lux

       
(Poem #1407) The Man into Whose Yard You Should Not Hit Your Ball
 each day mowed
 and mowed his lawn, his dry quarter-acre,
 the machine slicing a wisp
 from each blade's tip. Dust storms rose
 around the roar, 6 p.m. every day,
 spring, summer, fall. If he could mow
 the snow he would.
 On one side, his neighbors the cows
 turned their backs to him
 and did what they do to the grass.
 Where he worked, I don't know,
 but it set his jaw to: tight.
 His wife a cipher, shoebox tissue,
 a shattered apron. As if
 into her head he drove a wedge of shale.
 Years later, his daughter goes to jail.
 Mow, mow, mow his lawn
 gently down a decade's summers.
 On his other side lived mine and me,
 across a narrow pasture, often fallow --
 a field of fly balls, the best part of childhood
 and baseball. But if a ball crossed his line,
 as one did in 1956,
 and another in 1958,
 it came back coleslaw -- his lawnmower
 ate it up, happy
 to cut something, no matter
 what the manual said
 about foreign objects,
 stones, or sticks.
-- Thomas Lux
From the minute I read the title of today's poem, I knew I was going to
enjoy it. "The Man into whose Yard you Should Not Hit Your Ball" - what
child has not known one? It conjures up an instant image, an entire
personality type summed in one short line.

Nor did the rest of the poem disappoint. Despite a certain (unavoidable)
predictability, I was captivated by the charm of the language, the
almost-stream of conscious narrative tone, and above all, the sheer
observation that sparkled in every line. I think my favourite touch was the
"one did in 1956/ and another in 1958" - the incidents, probably no more
than passing nuisances in the man's life, stamped indelibly across the
narrator's boyhood and looming large in memory.

Nicely wrapped up poem, too - when I read these stream-of-consciousness
poems I always hold my breath a little, wondering if the poet will be up to
the task of supplying an ending that both flows with and definitively closes
the poem. Fortunately, Lux was, and the finished whole stands as a very
satisfying experience.

martin

Biography:
  [broken link] http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=116

62 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Peter Macinnis said...

> From the minute I read the title of today's poem, I knew I was going
> to enjoy it. "The Man into whose Yard you Should Not Hit Your Ball" -
> what child has not known one? It conjures up an instant image, an
> entire personality type summed in one short line.

Sometimes admiration, like revenge, is a dish best tasted cold. Here
is some admiration, though this is a tale of young revenge.

I also had such a neighbour -- at nine or ten, I crept into her
backyard in the middle of the night, and retrieved the plastic rotor
blade that had flown over the fence and which was hung like a trophy
on the railing of her back steps, tauntingly visible from our back
door. I left on the hook, in its place, a note that read "Thou shalt
not covet thy neighbour's goods". It was inscribed in a decidedly
childish hand, but what of it?

My father had taught me the use of the knight's fork in chess, a week
or two earlier, and I was well aware that she could not protest at my
action without admitting that she knew who had written it, and who
owned the object. I also felt that my parents would stamp and whistle
if they learned of my actions, but I dared not tell them, just in case
they felt I was twisting a Biblical text.

It never occurred to me that they might wonder how it had returned.
They clearly decided not to ask.

Now I am the age of that malignant old woman, and that poem brought me
a moment's pleasure to recall one of them who was bested, beaten and
outfoxed by a child.

cheers

peter macinnis

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I agree with this because I also like the conscious narrative tone it was made with the correct sense, I'd like to write poems like these in order to become a great poet.m10m

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Thomas Lux currently holds the Bourne chair in poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology and runs their Poetry at Tech program.

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I heard he was a visiting professor at University of California

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