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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just a quick note about the poem below

"The Photograph" was the first poem I ever explicated in a poetry course. I still have all my notes on it. What I love about this poem is its slow, dark quality. Voigt is known for her musicality, partially because she's trained as a pianist and mostly because of her poems. This blog's title comes from this poem, and the black background for the site. This having been my first REALLY thoroughly read and taken-apart poem is probably to blame for my obsession with dark hair in my poems. On the other hand, I once told my favorite poetry teacher that I prefer darkness to daylight (true), and her immediate reduction was, "Of course. It's easier to hide in." Nice.

The Photograph (Ellen Bryant Voigt)

Black as a crow’s wing was what they said
about my mother’s hair. Even now,
back home, someone on the street
will stop me to recall my mother, how beautiful she was,
first among her sisters.
In the photograph, her hair
is a spill of ink below the white beret,
a swell of dark water. And her eyes as dark,
her chin lifted, that brusque defining posture
she had just begun in her defense.
Seventeen, on her own,
still a shadow in my father’s longing—nothing
the camera could record foretold
her restlessness, the years of shrill
unspecified despair, the clear reproach
of my life, just beginning.

The horseshoe hung in the neck of the tree sinks
deeper into heartwood every season.
Sometimes I hear the past
hum in my ear, its cruel perfected music,
as I turn from the stove
or stop to braid my daughter’s thick black hair.

Eating Alone (Li-Young Lee)

I’ve pulled the last of the year’s young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can’t recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way—left hand braced
on knee, creaky—to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
felt it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.