Monday’s Verse, Nov. 16, 2009

All,

Aside from the shocking temerity of Mr. Murphy’s reply (how dare you!), I really loved that poem. I’d noted that the pantoum can create a sense of incantation, and thought privately that it was a good form for nostalgia… but that poem really created an amazing atmosphere of paranoia! I’d never heard of R.S. Gwynn, a true southerner before. There’s a brief bio, some approbative quotes, and a few poems here:

http://www.thehypertexts.com/R.%20S.%20%28Sam%29%20Gwynn%20Poet%20Poetry%20Picture%20Bio.htm

Sounds like a kick-ass dude, and one critic noted… well, hell, you know what? We’re gonna come back to him next week.

Keeping with the southern theme, though, alert reader Andrea Barrett of Nashville, TN, provides this week’s poem. Herself a therapist, she recommended Forrest Hamer, a working psychoanalyst who lectures at UC Berkeley and just happens to have published poems in some of the country’s finest literary periodicals. In keeping, also, with the general idea of therapy, I am opening the column for comments this week on the subject of the poem’s 3rd line. The tone/theme of the poem itself seems right for the occasion, and I did not even mention last week the gruesome and tragic shootings that happened at Fort Hood, in Texas. I think we should all feel free to reflect on that tragedy, and the perhaps personal ways it’s affected us, in any way we like. Oh and before you assume that this is free verse, remember that his name’s an anagram for “form star here.”

Have a good week,

-ed.

LESSON

It was 1963 or 4, summer,
and my father was driving our family
from Ft. Hood to North Carolina in our 56 Buick.
We’d been hearing about Klan attacks, and we knew

Mississippi to be more dangerous than usual.
Dark lay hanging from the trees the way moss did,
and when it moaned light against the windows
that night, my father pulled off the road to sleep.

Noises
that usually woke me from rest afraid of monsters
kept my father awake that night, too,
and I lay in the quiet noticing him listen, learning
that he might not be able always to protect us

from everything and the creatures besides;
perhaps not even from the fury suddenly loud
through my body about his trip from Texas
to settle us home before he would go away

to a place no place in the world
he named Viet Nam. A boy needs a father
with him, I kept thinking, fixed against noise
from the dark.

-1995

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