Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Day's Announcement

Here's a poem from Brad Leithauser's Curves and Angles that made me burst into tears (with my own father mostly fit but still worse for wear after two strokes in the past five years). Looking at it again, I am particularly struck by the two different meanings of "gone" in the first two lines.

If you like this one, there are several more at the link if you click the book's title above.


The family’s hope? That he was too far gone
to notice she was gone. But when he asked for her
for four weeks running, it didn’t seem quite fair
to reassure him with—She’ll be back soon.
So when, pale blue eyes jumping in his head, he said
again, Nurse, where’s my Meg?, as if she were a stranger
(her, his own Bridget, sixth child and sole daughter!),
she told him—Poppa, listen: Momma’s dead.

The news plunged deep into that drowned brain.
He bowed his weighty head. She took his hand—
Had she made a mistake? Could he understand?
. . . Maybe, for when he raised his face again,
he wore a look of rationality triumphant:

I knew it. Otherwise, she would have come.


Ms Baroque said...

Jesus, Andrew. That's a hell of a build-up to a poem, and a hell of a poem. I won't go into the personal space it took me to; we all have them...

When my dad had pneumonia about ten years ago, he was delirious etc etc, and in and out of sedation. One night he called my mother at 3am, asking if she was going to be there the next morning at 7 to pick him up, because they were letting him go home.
Needless to say they were no such thing. What struck my mother the most was that he even knew her phone number that well: they'd been divorced since 1975!

Andrew Shields said...

The poem takes each reader to a "personal space," and that is part of what makes it a hell of a poem.

Brian Campbell said...

Very strong poem, that resonated deep inside my chest with an almost crushing sadness. My own father is in the late stages of Alzheimer's... one of my own best poems is about that. Thanks.

Ruth B. Shields said...

Mmmmmm ... lots of these moments with Dad, indeed. Love you, Ruth