my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Food for Thought

These poems will give you something to think about.

Why I'm Here
Jacqueline Berger

Because my mother was on a date
with a man in the band, and my father,
thinking she was alone, asked her to dance.
And because, years earlier, my father
dug a foxhole but his buddy
sick with the flu, asked him for it, so he dug
another for himself. In the night
the first hole was shelled.
I'm here because my mother was twenty-seven
and in the '50s that was old to still be single.
And because my father wouldn't work on weapons,
though he was an atomic engineer.
My mother, having gone to Berkeley, liked that.
My father liked that she didn't eat like a bird
when he took her to the best restaurant in L.A.
The rest of the reasons are long gone.
One decides to get dressed, go out, though she'd rather
stay home, but no, melancholy must be battled through,
so the skirt, the cinched belt, the shoes, and a life is changed.
I'm here because Jews were hated
so my grandparents left their villages,
came to America, married one who could cook,
one whose brother had a business,
married longing and disappointment
and secured in this way the future.

It's good to treasure the gift, but good
to see that it wasn't really meant for you.
The feeling that it couldn't have been otherwise
is just a feeling. My family
around the patio table in July.
I've taken over the barbequing
that used to be my father's job, ask him
how many coals, though I know how many.
We've been gathering here for years,
so I believe we will go on forever.
It's right to praise the random,
the tiny god of probability that brought us here,
to praise not meaning, but feeling, the still-warm
sky at dusk, the light that lingers and the night
that when it comes is gentle.

from The Gift That Arrives Broken.
© Autumn House Press, 2010

I am at an interesting juncture in my life right now,  one experience seems to open a door to the next opportunity  in ways that are totally unanticipated. So I find Why I'm Here particulary fun to read.

You're gonna love the gem that ends this next poem, The Imagined !!  

The Imagined
By Stephen Dunn
If the imagined woman makes the real woman
seem bare-boned, hardly existent, lacking in
gracefulness and intellect and pulchritude,
and if you come to realize the imagined woman
can only satisfy your imagination, whereas
the real woman with all her limitations
can often make you feel good, how, in spite
of knowing this, does the imagined woman
keep getting into your bedroom, and joining you
at dinner, why is it that you always bring her along
on vacations when the real woman is shopping,
or figuring the best way to the museum?
                     And if the real woman
has an imagined man, as she must, someone
probably with her at this very moment, in fact
doing and saying everything she’s ever wanted,
would you want to know that he slips in
to her life every day from a secret doorway
she’s made for him, that he’s present even when
you’re eating your omelette at breakfast,
or do you prefer how she goes about the house
as she does, as if there were just the two of you?
Isn’t her silence, finally, loving? And yours
not entirely self-serving? Hasn’t the time come,
                     once again, not to talk about it?
(in the March 14, 2011 edition of The New Yorker.)
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Thanks for reading


marie-josé said...

About "Why I'm Here." Although the author has a French name, I am not enamored with the poem. Not so much content-wise, as form-wise. She seems to go all over the place. I see at least three different poems that could be developed in this piece: One about mom meeting dad; one about the independent spirit of mom; another about mom fighting "melancholy" (depression?); one about coming to and living in America. That makes four poems. Sorry, "Why I'm Here" is just a title; it doesn't unify the poem.

As for Stephen Dunn's "The Imagined," it is in my view more successful, because it is more focused. It starts with one idea; it uses one tone (humor). Dunn must have been married a fairly long time, for his observations on the psychology of the married couple are sharp, pointed, and sensitive.

pkcyphert said...

Thanks for pointing all that out, Marie. I had the sense that "Why I'm Here" was trying to accomplish too much because I was alittle frustrated when instead of resolution I felt the poem switched gears. Now I understand why I was sensing that. I still like the exploration of synchronicty and how one thing leads to another, seemingly by chance.
I see the 2nd poem is more succinct.