Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Reign - Dean Young

Thank you whoever tuned the radio
to rain, thank you who spilled
the strong-willed wine for not
being me so I'm not to blame. I'm glad

I'm not that broken tree although
it looks sublime. And glad I'm not
taking a test and running out of time.
What's a tetrahedron anyway? What's

the sublime, 3,483 divided by 9,
the tenth amendment, the ferryman's name
on the River Styx? We're all missing
more and more tricks, losing our grips,

guilty of crimes we didn't commit.
The horse rears and races then moves no more,
the sports coupe grinds to a stop, beginning
a new life as rot, beaten to shit. Whitman

grass stain, consciousness swamp gas,
the bones and brain, protoplasm and liver,
ground down like stones in a river. Or does
the heart's cinder wash up as delta froth

out of which hops frog spawn, dog song,
the next rhyming grind, next kid literati?
Maybe the world's just a bubble, all
philosophy ants in a muddle,

an engine inside an elk's skull on a pole.
Maybe an angel's long overdue and we're
all in trouble. Meanwhile thanks whoever
for the dial turned to green downpour, thanks

for feathery conniptions at the seashore
and moth-minded, match-flash breath.
Thank you for whatever's left.

This poem by contemporary poet Dean Young has shades or absurdism and surrealism all over it, evidenced best in the wild imagery which fluctuates wildly in scale.  The line that best characterizes this starts halfway through the 6th stanza.  "Maybe all the world's just a bubble, all philosophy ants in a muddle"  So to start, we're in a bubble, our big ideas like ants all mixed up.  He continues, "an engine inside an elk's skull on a pole."  All through the poem, these large abstract ideas are mashed up in disjointed imagery, flowing along from consonant sound to consonant sound.

As an example of this collision of sound and scale, the following line: "bones and brain, protoplasm and liver, ground down like stones in a river."  It's effective and even if it doesn't make sense in any traditional sense, the effect adds over the course of the poem to create a cohesive vision of the confusion of the world and the promise of renewal and continuity implicit in nature.

Fundamentally, this is a poem of thanksgiving.  It starts and ends with the narrator thanking "whoever."  This whoever operates on both a cosmic scale (changing the seasons) and a personal scale (knocking over wine).  While the tone is flippant, I think the emotion is serious.  Young's narrator does thank the world for the "green downpour" of spring and the radio being tuned to rain.  Even if the world is sometimes incomprehensible feeling chaos, we ought to thank whoever anyways.  That's my takeaway, at least.

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