Monday, July 6, 2009

Obscurity and Regret

I've come across another poem in The New Yorker that made me have a few reads and some pondering. You have to simplify to try to understand the premise; then after simplifying, then you can expand to understand the deeper meanings.

I like this poem because so much happens in just such a few short lines. I had to slow down a bit to piece everything that's going on. Let's see how you find the poem.

Obscurity and Regret

by CD Wright

The hand without the glove screws down the lid
on the jar of caterpillars, but the apple trees
are already infested. The sun mottles
the ground. The leaves are half-dead.
A shoe stomps the larvae streaming
onto the lawn as if putting out a cigarette on a rug.
It was a stupid idea. It was a stupid thing to say
the thought belonging to the body says to its source
stomping on the bright-green grass as it spills its sweet guts.

Everything in this poem seems to be symbolic. It seems that the tree (which is symbolic for something that was once treasured) is now past spoiled. The caretaker (the hand, the body) is trying to salvage what is left, but it's useless. He tries to get rid of the caterpillars with his jar, but then he notices the sun ruining the apples and the leaves that are clear signs of the dead tree. Larvae are also spilling out, and even though he crushes them, it's still too late to save the tree.

It's really a poem of death, the death of something once valued and now slowly rotted and spoiled. Even when we don't want something to die or be over, we still try to preserve it. Some people go in denial. Some people hold on to the very end. It's a stupid thing for the mind to tell the body (as the poem states itself), but, as humans, we do tell ourselves that. We hold on almost too long sometimes, unable to accept the fate. It's easier said than done--trust me. But, I think this pome is intelligent in how it depicts this message. We all can see the tree and understand its decay, yet we can't essentially visualize the tragedy of the death in such a concrete image. I like it. It's very smart.

This is also why the title is so appropriate: the human goes through obscurity (trying to piece it all together) and regret for the death (whether the person is responsible or not). Sometimes we are responsible, and sometimes the situation is just out of our hands. It's worse, as in this case, if it is the person's fault. It seems to be that the caretaker neglected care for the tree before its spoiling but can't accept his faults for letting this occur. Maybe this is more common than not because no one ever likes to accept his/her shortcomings or faults. The stronger person does. It's hard to come to this point.

A lot of key words in the poem also allude to death: guts, infested, mottled, half-dead, stomps, lawn (the ground). But, I think it's an interesting juxtaposition with these "dead" words when it ends with the "bright-green grass" which is such a lively image and connotation. Even though there is death and stupidity and mistakes, good can still come. Not all is lost. Life will come again. Life will even come from the death itself, as applied here. I always try to find the positive spin....

So what do you think of "Obscurity and Regret?"

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