3.25.12

"Love Poem"
I want to write you
a love poem as headlong
as our creek
after thaw
when we stand
on its dangerous
banks and watch it carry
with it every twig
every dry leaf and branch
in its path
every scruple
when we see it
so swollen
with runoff
that even as we watch
we must grab
each other
and step back
we must grab each
other or
get our shoes
soaked we must
grab each other

This poem is a very emotional, love-filled poem that relates its message with colorful imagery. Pastan expresses her message about a love that needs saving with an extended metaphor. Each line says something different about the relationship, and the structure, or lack thereof also helps portray her message.

The first line immediately sets up the speaker’s desperate want to save the relationship she has. The description of “our creek” signifies the long relationship the speaker and her significant other have had. “Dangerous banks” are used to show the rockiness of the relationship. All of the sorrow and sadness and anger in their relationship is described by the twigs and dry leaves and branches that are taken away by the creek. The runoff is the hardships that the pair have to face together. When they see it they “must grab each other or get our shoes soaked” - they must rekindle their relationship before the water comes and douses whatever flame is left.

Pastan sets up the poem without much of a structure. I believe she does so in order to give it the feel of a creek flowing. However, she could also be doing so to show the urgency of her message to her significant other. There is no time for them to waste or their relationship will be over. The lack of structure gives the reader an overwhelming feeling, which is exactly what the speaker wants to portray to her significant other. The creek fed by the runoff of nature expresses the feeling of helplessness - that nature has created a problem and it’s too late to fix it. This problem is taking everything away - even the good - so there is no hope in saving it. The need to react is expressed in the last section. The speaker truly does want to fix whatever problem is going on.

I think that this is a very deep, descriptive portrayal of love. Many relationships are full of difficulties and problems, but need both parties to work together to overcome these challenges. Pastan expresses this poem with beautiful imagery and word choice and does a great job putting in a variety of emotion.


http://www.main.nc.us/graham/graphics/santeetlahcreek.jpg
Here is a picture of a creek that I feel shows the creek that Pastan was describing in her poem.

"Unveiling"
In the cemetery
a mile away
from where we used to live
my aunts and mother,
my father and uncles lie
in two long rows,
almost the way
they used to sit around
the long planked table
at family dinners.
And walking beside
the graves today, down
one straight path
and up the next,
I don't feel sad
for them, just left out a bit,
as if they kept
from me the kind
of grown-up secret
they used to share
back then, something
I'm not quite ready yet
to learn.
Death is a mystery, not yet solved by humans. We often wonder what happens after we’re gone and what happens to those we lose. In this poem Pastan looks at this topic through a different lens, by comparing it to life.

The first section of the poem shows how even in death, some things do not change. Her family lies in the cemetery “almost the way they used to sit around the long planked table at family dinners.” This comforts the speaker because even though they are gone, they are still able to bring back warm memories. Her family is still together, just as they were when they were alive. Because of these arrangements, the reader feels a sort of comfort knowing that death might not be as foreign as we believe it to be. However, in the next part of her poem, Pastan points out that death is still mostly foreign to the living. The speaker feels “left out a bit” because she is still alive and they are all gone from her. She compares this to the exclusion of adults when they kept “grown-up secrets” when she was a child. Although this contrasts with the first part of the poem, they go together nicely showing that death may not be as scary as we think, but we have to wait until we are ready to understand it.

Pastan writes this poem very simply, but gets a very important message across in the process. I think death is a very hard concept to write about and this is done so creatively and meaningfully that it should be applauded.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~chasluke/lukefamilydoc/mtpleasantcem.jpg
This image reminded me of the cemetery plot described in Pastan's poem.

4.12.12
While searching for my next two poems to discuss, I came upon this book called The Imperfect Paradise which contained six poems. I was going to choose just two of them, but thought they made the most sense when they were all together. These six Shakespearean sonnets reflect on different parts of the stories of Adam & Eve and the Fall of Man.

The Imperfect Paradise
1. Seasonal
Which season is the loveliest of all?
Without a pause you smile and answer spring,
Thinking of Eden long before the fall.
I see green shrouds enclosing everything
And choose instead the chaos of the snow
Before God separated dark from light.
I hear the particles of matter blow
Through wintry landscapes on a wintry night.
You find the world a warm and charming place,
My Adam, you name everything in sight.
I find a garden of conspicuous waste --
The apple’s flesh is cold and hard and white.
Still, at your touch my house warms to the eaves
As autumn torches all the fragile leaves.

This poem starts out with a simple enough question. Which season is the loveliest, the speaker asks of her partner. This man is referred to later as Adam, which causes readers to believe that Eve is the speaker. When Adam answers spring, immediately happy thoughts come to mind. Contrasting this view, Eve chooses winter, but not the happy, beautiful winter that people often imagine. She speaks of “the chaos of the snow” and other dark images. Adam disagrees and states that he finds the world beautiful, while Eve “find[s] a garden of conspicuous waste.” This is ultimately what leads her to take the apple and leads to the fall of mankind. I wasn’t really sure what Pastan is referring to with the last two lines. I believe it has something to do with their expulsion from the Garden, but I plan to do more research to find out.

2. In the Garden
How do we tell the flowers from the weeds
Now that the old equality of space
Has ended in the garden, and the seeds
Of milkweed and daisy scatter in disgrace?
Is it the stamen, petal, or the leaf
That like the ancient signature of Cain
Marks the flesh of wildflowers, to their grief
Just as the orchid blossoms into fame?
And Esau was the wildflower of his clan,
And Jacob was the brother who was chosen.
So we learn to distinguish man from man
Like botanists, our categories frozen.
But in a single morning roses die
While dandelions and chokeweed multiply.

This poem, like the first, begins with a question: How do we tell flowers from weeds? Here, the speaker is asking how they are to choose between good and evil now that paradise has been lost. Now, people must choose among people, like Jacob and Esau whose father chose between them. I feel out of this entire the poem, the last two lines are the most powerful. They show the fragility of beauty and purity and good, and represent how evil continues to grow in the world. The evil brings down the good and we must do something to stop it. I view it almost as a call to action.

3. Deep in These Woods
Darling, how do you make your garden grow
Deep in these woods, drowning in so much shade
That even hardly may apples are slow
To rise above the shadows where they wade?
Are you a threat to every living tree?
We lean against two trunks, resting our backs
But through your craggy face is what I see
I know that somewhere you conceal an axe.
When he planned Eden did great God conceive
Flowers that flourish with no need of light?
And was there nothing Adam hid from Eve?
And doesn’t the cereus bloom at night?
You place a burst of lilac in my hand
And sacrifice an oak. I almost understand.

I find this poem to be a very literal one. The speaker is asking her husband how he can possible make his garden grow in darkness. She feels that he is using and axe to chop down oaks to make room for sunlight, in secrecy. This, in turn, makes her wonder what other secrets her partner may be hiding from her. She wonders if Adam and Eve ever had the same type of secrecy in their lives. The line that stuck out the most to me was the second to last one. I think that this represents all that the gardener has worked to achieve and that he just wants the speaker to enjoy it. He doesn’t want her to question him, just to accept things as they are.

4. Thief
You caught a thieving squirrel in your trap
And for the sake of cardinal and jay
You put it, fat with birdseed, in a sack
And carried it a full five miles away.
Today there is another squirrel there
Or else, more likely, this one is the same,
Making its way through all the clues of air
Along the highway ‘til it found our name.
Is this a metaphor for what we feel,
Pushing our nibbling doubts five miles from sight?
Boredom and passion, alternately real,
Pull us apart, then stagger us with light.
The animals of marriage are as wild,
hungry, and stubborn as any squirrel’s child.

This poem, like the last, is also very literal. The first half narrates the story of a thieving squirrel who is placed somewhere away, but returns to his original spot. The speaker asks if this is a metaphor for our lives, for the way we feel. She suggests that we take our doubts and fears and push them away, but they continue to come back and nibble at us some more. She is saying that we need to face these doubts and take care of them in order for us to go on living our lives.

5. The Imperfect Paradise
If God had stopped work after the fifth day
With Eden full of vegetables and fruits,
If oak and lilac held exclusive sway
Over a kingdom made of stems and roots,
If landscape were the genius of creation
And neither man nor serpent played a role
And God must look to wind for lamentation
And not to picture postcards of the soul,
Would he have rested on his bank of cloud
With nothing in the universe to lose,
Or would he hunger for a human crowd?
Which would a wise and just creator choose:
The green hosannas of a budding leaf
Or the strict contract between love and grief?

Out of all the poems in this series, I feel that this one and the last are the most powerful. In this one Pastan questions our existence and what would happen if we had not been created. What if God had stopped after the fifth day? There would have been no evil in the world, no sadness. No expulsion from paradise, no questioning our creator. The world would have been in harmony. But the speaker asks “would he hunger for a human crowd?” I like to think that he would. Sure, the world would be a happier, simpler place, but what is a world without mistakes. One can only truly appreciate happiness when one has suffered grief to; I’m sure this applies to God too. After all, we were made in his image right?

6. Somewhere in the Euphrates
Somewhere in the Euphrates, buried, lost
The rusted gates of Eden still remain,
And archeologists at awful cost
Search for a snakeskin or an apple stain,
Talk of Atlantis and the walls of Troy
As if they had to prove each legend real
Or else, like fools of science, must destroy
Geographies of what we only feel.
While sometimes watching at the window here
I see you in the garden on your knees;
It is as close you have come to prayer,
Planting the shadblow and the peonies,
Making azalias, hollies, dogwoods grow,
Digging up Eden with a single hoe.

In this last poem, Pastan is contrasting the two different ways people might view the Eden story. The speaker imagines archaeologists trying to find proof that such a place existed, much like they did with Atlantis and Troy. She finds this attempt foolish, and believes that we should search for “geographies of what we only feel.” By this, she is saying that the Eden story makes humans who they are and to that extent the story is true. In the last section of the poem the speaker talks to a gardener that she sees. She sees him on his knees planting, and says that this is a type of prayer. She states that he is “digging up Eden,” finding his own paradise by these actions.

Although the sonnets are different from each other, each has a central theme that relates to the others. The first five start with questions. Each of them speculates on a question raised by the stories of Adam & Eve and the Fall. In all of them, no direct answer is given. Rather, she allows the reader space to speculate and come up with their own answers. The final poem gives the reader Pastan’s answer to the question of Eden and its existence. I think that all of these poems give great meanings separately, but when put together create a powerful work of art that should be taken seriously.

This is an image that I though portrayed the Garden of Eden very well: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/images/GardenOfEden3.jpg