Monday, August 25, 2008

My Husband Discovers Poetry

I found this on Okay, that’s sort of a lie. I found this in the book, but that really doesn’t matter. So now I’m wondering why I don’t just delete that first sentence and start over. Hmmm… I don’t have a reason for not doing that… I guess I’m just feeling defiant.

Anyway, title of this poem appealed to me right away because I love poetry yet my wife has never been a fan (well, I shouldn’t say never—I’m pretty sure she loved Shel Silverstein when she was a kid).

by Diane Lockward

Because my husband would not read my poems,
I wrote one about how I did not love him.
In lines of strict iambic pentameter,
I detailed his coldness, his lack of humor.
It felt good to do this.

Stanza by stanza, I grew bolder and bolder.
Towards the end, struck by inspiration,
I wrote about my old boyfriend,
a boy I had not loved enough to marry
but who could make me laugh and laugh.
I wrote about a night years after we parted
when my husband's coldness drove me from the house
and back to my old boyfriend.
I even included the name of a seedy motel
well-known for hosting quickies.
I have a talent for verisimilitude.

In sensuous images, I described
how my boyfriend and I stripped off our clothes,
got into bed, and kissed and kissed,
then spent half the night telling jokes,
many of them about my husband.
I left the ending deliberately ambiguous,
then hid the poem away
in an old trunk in the basement.

You know how this story ends,
how my husband one day loses something,
goes into the basement,
and rummages through the old trunk,
how he uncovers the hidden poem
and sits down to read it.

But do you hear the strange sounds that floated up the stairs that day, the sounds of an animal, its paw caught in one of those traps with teeth of steel? Do you see the wounded creature at the bottom of the stairs, his shoulders hunched over and shaking, fist in his mouth and choking back sobs? It was my husband paying tribute to my art.

While this is hardly an event I’ve experienced, I do find it very funny how the author manages to take a somewhat comical situation to a somewhat serious place, and then end it with an image of her crying, howling husband as he reads about her former lover. And it does make me wonder how a writer of any sort avoids offending/upsetting his/her loved ones when writing about awkward things.

The last line somewhat strikes me. The speaker has greatly upset her hubby, and then writes “it was my husband paying tribute to my art.” You hear that sort of mentality all the time from Hollywood-types: “there’s no such thing as bad press,” and I have to wonder how true that is. Is the speaker okay with the fact that her husband is feeling the part of the cuckold because it means that she has written a successful poem?

This question has been on my mind lately because of the movie Tropic Thunder. Today there was an article in the paper all about how offensive the movie is because of the use of the word “retard” and all it’s forms throughout the film. I remember seeing previews for it months ago and thinking that it looked terrible and wondered who would want to see it, but now it’s considered a box-office hit. And I have to wonder: is part of its success due to all the publicity it’s gotten from the many protests that have taken part all over the country? The article I read today was actually an editorial from a parent of a child who has downs syndrome, and how offensive she feels that the movie actually is. But I’ve seen multiple news stories on tv about the protests, and the internet has been full of calls-to-action from angry activists.

Has the publicity for the protesters helped fuel the movie to box office success? I don’t know the answer, but when I read this poem yesterday I immediately thought they were a good parallel.


Brooke said...

I always want to read YOUR poems...

Chase said...

I just love this poem. Even though I am not a woman. (Not that you need to be a certain gender to understand the real beauty of poetry...) I like what the author is saying. How words can impact and induce feelings in people. How most people can have transcendent experiences and be transported to other places. Also some people can look at a poem in a different way in which others have never seen it before. I just find it remarkable how the poet is able to convey these feelings in the poem. On a five star scale I give it a six! PHENOMENAL!