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bristolstreet  ·  1906 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Essential Tremor by Elizabeth Metzger  ·  

    With the first couplet, the lines are just a little beyond my grasp. I find I am spending too much time trying to make sense of them.

I actually have a similar feeling, but with regard to the second couplet you posted. I am unsure what "now dumbed down" refers to: everything, or the ego? If it's the ego, then why is it in juxtaposition to the ego being the only thing not blushing? I suppose I read the first line, and I think: "Of course, the ego loves itself--it never would blush." But then the second line comes, and the ego--if it refers to the ego--is impotent, dumbed down for sleep.

That said, though, the general impression I get from that couplet in context is this: the speaker is looking inward and finding things to be sardonic about. (That's what I get from the quotes around sleep.) The speaker tells us the psychic says all that negative, broken heart rolling three blank dice shittiness "says a lot"--presumably about the speaker's future. There's outward eyes evaluating, and now the speaker's inward eyes don't see much to sing praises about either. It's a far cry from Whitman's body having sex with his soul in a sunlit meadow. (And the way the psychic line is presented--it's laughing at the psychic, too, who is supposed to be a peddler of predictions but can only give a reading that means nothing.)

Regarding the first couplet you posted, I do think the "death is something you can fuck up" may refer to suicide, but in keeping with the heaven/hell conceit, I think it might also have to do with St. Peter's Judgment at the pearly gates. Birth and death are the most profound human experiences. Death: the end of all. But wait: after you die, what, your immortal soul goes to be scrutinized and evaluated? This is in keeping with what I perceive to be the essential anticlimacticity (that's not a word) of the poem.

Although, if I try to perceive a causal link between fuck up/ the broken heart, my analysis falls apart a little bit. I can say what the "three blank dice" calls up for me: it's the only impossible result that is worse than the worst possible outcome, as I said below, and I think it also has to do with the murkiness of the future. The first interpretation would fit in with the absolute desolation of the subversion of death's profundity, while the second is supported my the following line about the psychic. Other than that--does it imply that the first line is a necessary condition for the second line? Or is "where death is something you can fuck up" just synonymous with world, here?

The couplet that seems more out of place for me is

    A crowd of phenom-hermits
    expects a planet to arrive.

I think this one is important, too, but I don't know if I'm getting enough from it. The analysis I like the most is that it just subverts the target of mocking--or bemoaning? Anyway, all that's before-- hell, a tulip, death, the future, the self--is painted to be flawed and short of expectations. Then this couplet arrives, and the speaker is pointing out how silly it is that these apparently professional outcasts are waiting for a whole planet to arrive to them. I don't know whether the "planet" is supposed to be heaven, or if the "phenom-hermits" are the religious; that doesn't quite fit. But regardless, the essence is there: we who expect the impossible are ridiculous.

The poem ends on what I see as a comparatively sweet note. The angel has a harelip--so what? Isn't confronting a face with imperfections better than a face that's perfectly radiant? Then, "and she is willing to watch you shake"; that could mean a number of things, but watching implies a sort of comfort even while shaking implies fear. That's enough for the speaker: everything more profound has turned out to be false or unattainable, anyway.

I'm going to post this mind-dump without editing, so if you've read all of it, I'm sorry for the way it reads. I hope I explained my thoughts well enough. Justifiably or not, I certainly found associations between the images, but I can see how one would not. Someone once told me that a poem only exists in an instant in the mind of the reader and disappears: it can never exist in the same way again. So I suppose that for some reason, this poem is a revelation in my mind--and it makes perfect sense that anyone else's reading is dissimilar.