Monday, March 16, 2009

Unexpected Diggin It

My poetry class and I have been bonding over the Oxford Book of American Poetry, (edited by David Lehman), which we fondly refer to as, "the brick." It is brickish, and I think it should come with a set of hands to knead my back on the days I drag it to school and therefore work and wherever else I end up on a given night. I initially railed against the task of reading an entire brickish poetry anthology, but it's turning out to be pretty delicious...

There are pieces I get half way through and then give up on. There are whole poets I give up on. Louise Bogan was one said poet whose pieces I was not particularly turned on by. Oh so contained. Oh so shrouded in eh. And then there was this piece, Evening in the Sanitarium. I considered that maybe I only dug it because my expectations for Louise were low, but after a few careful readings I decided that her contained poetic posture did something perfectly earie to the setting of a woman's sanitarium, (the setting for the piece below). Her poetic posturing- the enjambment, the bare-bones notions like "a little" in line four- is nearly a sanitarium in its own right. And so, caught wholly off-guard, it seems I dig.


The free evening fades, outside the windows fastened
with decorative iron grilles.
The lamps are lighted; the shades drawn; the nurses
are watching a little.
It is the hour of the complicated knitting on the safe
bone needles; of the games of anagrams and bridge;
The deadly game of chess; the book held up like a mask.

The period of the wildest weeping, the fiercest delusion, is over.
The women rest their tired half-healed hearts; they are
almost well.

Some of them will stay almost well always: the blunt-faced
woman whose thinking dissolved
Under academic discipline; the manic-depressive girl
Now leveling off; one paranoiac afflicted with jealousy,
Another with persecution. Some alleviation has been

O fortunate bride, who never again will become elated
after childbirth!
O lucky older wife, who has been cured of feeling
To the suburban railway station you will return, return,
To meet forever Jim home on the 5:35.
You will be again as normal and selfish and heartless
as anybody else.

There is life left: the piano says it with its octave smile.
The soft carpets pad the thump and splinter of the suicide
to be.
Everything will be splendid: the grandmother will not
drink habitually.
The fruit salad will bloom on the plate like a bouquet
And the garden produce the blue-ribbon aquilegia.
The cats will be glad; the fathers feel justified; the
mothers relieved.
The sons and husbands will no longer need to pay the bills.
Childhoods will be put away, the obscene nightmare abated.

At the ends of the corridors the baths are running.
Mrs. C. again feels the shadow of the obsessive idea.
Miss R. looks at the mantel-piece, which must mean something.


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