Thursday, March 4, 2010
Back to some poetry: This poem was published in last year's (2009's) New Yorker issed in November. It speaks of a burglary and the aftermath of the crisis.
by Linda Pastan
They stole my mother's silver,
melting it down, perhaps,
into pure mineral, worth
only its own weight.
We must eat with our hands now,
grab for food
in this new place of greed,
our table set
only with memories, tarnishing
even as we speak:
my mother holding a shiny ladle
in her hand,
serving the broth
to children who will forget
to polish her silver, forget even
to lock the house.
While forks and spoons are divided
from all purpose,
patterns are lost like friezes
after centuries of rain,
and every knife is robbed
of its cutting edge.
I've had my car broken into before. I understand what it's like to feel violated and stolen from. It makes you feel stripped and naked, like you are only worth things and those things are not yours anymore. It makes you feel connected to those lost things, like you are now less of a person without them. But when it comes down to it, they are just things. Lost "things" should not be the end of the world. It still doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt like hell though.
This poem really gets the heart of what I'm talking about. It parallels between the purpose and intention of the criminals and the aftermath of what the family thus experiences. The criminals don't think about the other half of the equation, and it's hard for the victim to see the other side as well. The poet (writing on the victim's behalf) also doesn't know what the criminal is doing with the stolen items. She is making an assumption. Who knows what is true. But, it is true that both sides are both disconnected and not understanding of the other party.
Selecting to identify the stolen silver really puts a strong image in the reader's mind. We can now see the effects the family feels when they go to dinner, eating with no utensils. Even the simplest things feel the loss, and you take for granted the small things you have. You don't always see someone stealing from you these items, no pertinent and imminent threats. But alas, the silverware is stolen.
Pastan writes, "Now we must eat with our hands," alluding to the fact that they are now in a more primitive state, as if they have now been reduced to less of people than they were before because of this crime. Or, at least it makes them feel that way. It's as if you walk in the shoes of the criminal, feeling the dirtiness of a dirty job/act. Stealing is primitive, and so are the raw feelings they are now experiencing.
The interesting twist to the poem is that the mother didn't lock the door, so she probably feels extremely guilty for what happened, like she deserved it. She didn't take the precaution she should have, but she probably didn't think she had to. She had too must trust in the world, and can that be a fault? I guess it is in the world we live in. It's sad that we have to question others before immediately accepting them.
I really like the end, concluding with the knife and how it's lost its cutting edge. Clever. End with the hurt (the obvious weapon) when it's such an emotional loss that feels almost like a stabbing pain from a knife.
Even the structure of the poem looks like a utensil. I kind of like that. The lines are also very similar in their structure, alluding to the normalcy of their lives. But now they have been violently thrown off key, off balance. Something like this can definitely do that.
Overall, it's a concise, effective poem. It says a lot with little words. Well done.
So what do you think of "The Burglary?"