The Way by Rae

Card in pew pocket
announces,
“I am here.”

I made only one statement
because of a bad winter.

Grease is the word; grease
is the way

I am feeling.
Real life emergencies or

flubbing behind the scenes.

As a child,   
I was abandoned

in a story
made of trees.

Here’s the small
gasp

of this clearing
come “upon” “again”

– RAE ARMANTROUT


I found this line-by-line analysis of the poem online –

Past me wrote, “connected” a lot on the page and pointed in various stanzas to show which sentiment connects to another.  How about this.  Each sentence plays with memory and how the speaker remembers things; furthermore, the line breaks creates a fracture of what is remembered and what is expected.

“Card in pew pocket / announces, / “I am here.” I feel this sentence plays with the idea of existence.  And in a funny way, the card itself announces it’s existence, rather than what the card represents (religion, god, projected self — take your pick)

“I made only one statement / because of a bad winter.”  Past me did a diagram focused on the phrase “one statement” does that mean there are more than one for different seasons.  The sentence is constructed in this way where the reason seems more important that the statement which dilutes gravity in the word “the way.”

“Grease is the word; grease / is the way / I am feeling.”  The reference to the play and movie “Grease” feels like a riff on the phrase “the way” and taking the seriousness out of it.  But the line breaks where the phrase “I am feeling” is isolated could be construed as an emotional cue to Grease. But then again, the humorous allusion doesn’t allow the connection to be too concrete.

“Real life emergencies or / flubbing behind the scenes.”  Here is a weird either/or proposition where the beginning phrase has more gravity than the latter phrase.  Usually, the second half would be something the speaker goes off on and the first half would serve as a summation or end-thought of what proceeded it.  But, weirdly, the humor with “flubbing behind the scenes” foreshadows the next sentence:

     As a child,
     I was abandoned

     in a story
     made of trees.

The line and stanza break cuts the “danger” with the stanza, “As a child, / I was abandoned” — also the line cuts the sentimentality, but this doesn’t feel like the line downplays the idea of “abandoned” just the sentiment.  And in the stanza, “in a story / made of trees.” which is innocuous, opens the poem up as the last sentence follows through with this idea.

     Here’s the small
     gasp

     of this clearing
     come “upon” “again”

Past me wrote, “upon — discovery ‘ first time'” and “again — repetition, rediscovery”  and that’s just basically the meanings of the words.  The word that catches me off guard is “gasp” which is a sonic device when I’m in a mental state.  But the gasp is “small” and plays with the visual with “of this clearing” like in a forest.

It’s the words and their definitions that’s found.  Is this the way?

Darrell Dela Cruz on his blog – A retail life after the MFA


Al Filreis sums up the poem in a beautiful way –

To remember the reading of stories by your mother as an act of abandonment makes for a very independent adult who sees the way the mother let you lose yourself and it is this adult who can compose the first part of the poem and be frightened of the fracturing of the contemporary subject.


This poem is certainly challenging and I think I will have to do a lot of reading before I can even begin to handle the multiple voices of the poem. I do not have a personal interpretation of this one although a loose thought in my head right now is – art mimics real life and as time has evolved poets have a lot to write about – fractured contemporary subjects – and wrapping language around it, the simple act of finding the words to describe all that is going necessitates the inventions of new ways of choosing and then dealing with the subject matter – but then I think I am just reinventing the wheel.

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Author: pecsbowen

reader.philosopher.writer

7 thoughts on “The Way by Rae”

  1. I am ordering a zillion more neurons to wrap the entire thing in a go.. but hey, one always goes.. so here’s where i ‘went’ at..

    ‘I am here’ is the only statement he made in the card he sent ‘because of a bad winter’, as he has gone cold as the years piled up. Its clear that it’s less of a poem on his nostalgic feelings and more on how he looks at these feelings of his.’Grease is the word, grease is the way’ – desperately searching for ways to make the memories roll back to him.. and wonders if it really is such an ’emergency’ or he is just ‘fumbling’ around with things.

    Now, comes the central part. ‘I was abandoned as a child in a story made of trees.’ Now, i am completely guessing here but the only way i could connect the dots is he thinks now that he felt abandoned while knowing he was not supposed to and didn’t need to hence even after going cold, he sends a card and then feels the need for an excuse of why it wasn’t elaborate.

    ‘Here’s the small gasp… ‘ – the end just showed of how his struggle still continues, remains unchanged, unsettled. The struggle between his memories of childhood feelings and his feelings toward childhood memories.

    The entire thing is a rough sketch of what I felt and could make out. It is no way a literary critique or a solid interpretation. It was just a dumb brain’s handful neurons playing around. : P

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