Thursday, 5 February 2015

After Norman MacCaig

This is a poem that is playful and terrifying in equal measures.

The deceptive 4 line stanzas with their loose, assonant and ultimately absent abab rhyming scheme provide an initial sense of calm underpinned with something not quite right. The images in the first stanza hint at Thomas Hardy but next quickly swing into a hallucinogenic world of milking sunsets and fiery dew.

Stanza four for me is where the poem becomes truly disturbing - the entrapment of "distance" and its captivity for our pleasure sets a scene of power and oppressive control that is almost Blakean but with no sympathy for the underdog.

And then the killer blow: what is it we are missing who live like this? Find out in the last stanza.

Refer back to title.

Pow. A hit, a very palpable hit.


Let’s choose a pretty word, say, evening,
And climb through it into the past,
or stand on a towering If, surveying
The rosy kingdoms we have lost.

From every corner creep a thousand
Boredoms saying, Greet us.  We’re life.
Let’s round the sunset up and milk it
Into a jug and drink it off.

Or in the hawthorn let us tangle
Our dreary look like gossamer
To shudder with that sparrow’s chirping
And when the dew falls be on fire.

Or drag the distance home and chain it
There in the corner of the room
To charm us with its savage howling
And beg for fragments of our dream.

There’s a clue somewhere.  Can you find it?
Can you say it over and over again
‘Love’, till its incantation makes us
Forget how much we are alone?

Norman MacCaig

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