Sunday, October 20, 2013


The fourth part of Metro Lace is where things take a turn toward the more immediate and more personal.  The immediacy comes, in part, from the fact that the Part consists of five different Days, so that each has its particular occasion.  Each—until the fifth Day—is very contained, a short poem, in essence.  And that means there is much less opportunity to roam. The effort begins to write every other day or so, which is broken up by a trip taken to PA, and a return.  It’s the time of year when the semester is breaking up and there are gatherings. The trip is signaled by 5.7, written on an Amtrak to Philadelphia. The decision to register what the days themselves contain makes the poem morph in a new way, at first, but that was not apparent at all on 5.3, when Part IV commences.

That segment—5.3—shows a playfulness with form but, I think, a deepening of content.  Or at least a “return” to Part I, in the sense of describing how I feel without making the particulars too clear.  There’s a spirit animating 5.3 that makes the tone of it hard for me to register.  It’s rueful about something that hasn’t happened.  It’s not the regret over what one has done, but the regret over what one has not done, and probably never will.  I don’t think it’s despairing though.  This is a poem, after all—does anyone actually write a poem of despair?  So, then, though it’s regrettable that something has not occurred, there’s yet the chance that something will occur.

There’s a very definite sense, in IV, that at least some of the regret has to do with “her.”  There are any number of uses of the female pronoun in the entire poem, and it would be foolish to think that they all apply to someone in particular, or to anyone in particular each time (see discussion of eros here).  And yet at times “she” is a definite figure. This gets explored somewhat in 5.13, III, where a long list of impressions of different “hers” flows past like a litany of glimpses.  It could be said that some such denouement is already implied in the opening of Part IV.  If we want to give a name to the main “her” of Part IV, we could call her Lucy, the name used to address a particular “her” at the close of 5.3.

My recollection of writing 5.3 is that I felt the poem might be becoming very elliptical.  That there would be no more distracting its mood with the fun stuff I’ve been mostly doing since Part II.  I was taking my cue from Side A and Side B, both of which indicated that something had passed—call it the semester, if you like.  I would have to be somewhere else, mentally, shortly.  And where would I be if not the past, perhaps settling old scores or something.

But I swerved from that task, as one says, and let 5.5 be a very careful discourse on my mood walking around town.  My impending departure, in a day or two, for a visit to my wife gives the day the clarity of leave-taking and that’s all I’m registering, but with the imagined possibility of a more open-ended escape—without giving too much away, I can say that I’m still thinking of a pursuit.  Imagining as well, it seems, a last minute visit to offset my own departure.  When next we see me—5.7—I’m the one on the train and I’ve become the rather demonstrative voice one overhears while traveling in Business Coach.  This segment is all business and a glance out the window at words printed on the side of a building gains me my eventual title: Metro Lace.

Then comes a gap, as I write nothing while away.  On 5.12 I’m back and simply taking stock of my mood as I resume.  I think the overall burden here is looking for “the charm” that finally gets mentioned in the last line.  That will have to do for a finish, though I have the nagging sense that this Day wanted to go much further afield.  Which does in fact happen on 5.13 where all bets are off.  We’re going to have-at this thing till we get somewhere and get this Part over with.  It’s as if I’m letting go to make up for the poems that didn’t get written while I was out of town.

5.13 begins with a guiding formal principle: find a rhyme for every line ending.  I believe this is still the case, though I haven’t checked. There may have been subsequent revisions that spoiled the effect, but, initially, at least, there was an off-rhyme for each.  The tone of the poem is now taking the long view, something like what surfaced way back in Part II.  Perhaps that’s the default tone of the poem: trying to tell you, dear Reader, what it was like…in those days.  Yet now we’re somewhere closer to the speaker than we were, and in 2. it becomes a bit of a cat-and-mouse game as the “situation” has been lifted from another one of those gatherings that are, it seems, the only charm of these days.

Finally, as 3. begins, we take up “pursuit” through memory: all those glimpses of “her”—where some are deliberately generic and some very specific. What the exact mix is and how many nameable “hers” contribute to the composite, I would never say.  Is glimpsing and telling much different from kissing and telling?  You tell me.  In any case, the saving grace of this unabashed scopophilia, I hope (it’s May in a college town, after all), is the riposte of at least some of the collective “hers” speaking of “him” and his need to make “something” of seeing them like that.  The response is a little hard to follow because the banality of all those glimpses—it can be admitted that “she” does nothing remarkable in any of the glimpses—provokes a sense of having to account for simply being an object of attention.  And how is one to do that, ultimately?  Graciously?  Grudgingly?  And everything in between?

From that we segue into much playfulness, as if to offset the embarrassment of the above with something that either charms or grates.  If you’ve ever amused a child until he or she becomes irritated with the amusement, then you have probably experienced what I’m going for here.  And from that cue—the disappearing listeners—we go somewhere that I still find quite impressive, if I say so myself.

I have to say that to end this Part, I’m going to have to get right up against it.  It’s not so much an exposure or a dropping of pretense.  It’s not my heart on my sleeve, I don’t think, but it’s as near to that as this poem gets.  Each verse paragraph contains a “charm,” so to speak, and what impresses me is that I’m able to say what I mean and not say it, at the same time.  I think that such is the case throughout the poem but here the saying has become more emphatic.  Maybe I’m simply finally claiming the meagerness of my own imagination, but in any case, I definitely come home again.

From “Come take me” to “it smarts” I’m working toward the finish and I can’t seem to get there.  I keep taking new breaths and resuming.  The pursuit now—not meaning to risk comparison with Keats—is being “felt on one’s pulses” as he says.  My heart’s beating as we get to the end of this one, actually fluttering.  I think it’s because we’re back, with a difference, to the “airlifted” moment.  What can be the harm in that, and what can be the nature of the possible and fruitful life to come?

Do you recall something about a “purgatorial chair”?  That's where we are as this Part ends.

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