OVERPASS (’08)

Perhaps all roads

Wrinkle towards forgiveness

And, at last,

Having masqued

An woman into womanhood

Will find in your brow

Their perfect place

For resting, and

For death.

Even now I want to ask

Whether, once,

You found your face

By accident,

Meandering on highways

Round the eyes of some lover,

And wondered

At its

Stumbling grace?

I hope you

Lost your breath.

2 thoughts on “OVERPASS (’08)

  1. Commenting on this poem is very interesting because I had two completely different experiences of it.

    At first, I didn’t realise that I had to click on a button to read the whole text, and I thought for a while that it was some type of haiku:

    Perhaps all roads
    Wrinkle towards forgiveness

    I thought: ‘well done’. At all levels the two lines express an ambivalent and blurred hope, through the choice of words, the general softness of the sounds (‘towards forgiveness’) and the punctuation (absence of a period at the end). We never really know where a road ends, and therefore we never really achieve certitude; and because they seem to bend and repeat themselves indefinitely, they recall the image of a ‘softening’ of emotions towards eventual forgiveness, precisely because there is no definite right angle to cling at. It’s not particularly optimistic as a viewpoint, because forgiveness doesn’t stem from a decisive event, but rather from the ‘ageing’ of anger and its loss of meaning. Hence the wrinkles, who also functions as a personification. I think a proof that the two lines worked for me was the fact that I immediately identified this moment in time from past experience – Donegal roads at sunset, to be precise. Sunset is obvious in these lines, even if not mentioned explicitly.

    And then, I discovered that the poem was much longer than that. I won’t be as surgical as previously (after all, I had promised only six words) because the form of the text demands a different type of approach. There is still that dimension of blur (‘masqued’, ‘meandering’, ‘some’ lover, ‘wonder’) but it is now thwarted by the mention of death, loss of breath, and accident. Not surprisingly, you also accentuate it through the puncuation, with the only two periods after ‘death’ and ‘breath’ – not to mention the rhyme. Although I like the fact that you feel free to tackle death even before halfway through (after all, it can happen, and it won’t make roads/love less elusive), I find the last line too final. Granted, the sound of ‘breath’ is rather soft and lengthened, and the event supposedly painless, but the line is short and ends abruptly. I don’t find it ambivalent enough (i.e I can’t foresee survival) and it somehow ‘kills’ the hope of the first two lines, however doubtful it was from the beginning. I think the problem comes not from ‘breath’ (on the contrary: it avoids violence) but rather from the irrecoverableness of the past tense in ‘lost’. The ambivalence between pessimism and optimism is lost too, and with it some of the charming mystery of the poem.

    I won’t dwell for too long on the form, which I find well managed, both in the overall shortness of the lines and simultaneously their variation in number of feet. I like the fact that you don’t hesitate to resort to rhymes at particular moments; this is what makes ‘free verse’ way freer than it would be if it was only straightforwardly ‘free’. Even though the rhyming lines don’t follow each other directly, I definitely felt them. There is only one line that I find clearly awkward: ‘An angel into womanhood’. What does an angel have to do with the the earth? Your main metaphor is the road, therefore I interpret love, forgiveness and death through the perspective of the road, certainly not through looking above. Even ‘womanhood’ doesn’t belong here, I feel; it doesn’t fit within the sound pattern of the rest of the poem, and in this particular context it is a very vague term, abstract but deprived of the relevance of other abstractions like forgiveness and grace. I really think that you convey womanhood perfectly through the simple use of the ‘you’. As a whole, the poem stands out for its ability to convey more than is mentioned and to sustain the elusiveness of the subject without ever (except in the last line) losing sight of it.

    Now it remains for you to mock my overinterpretation of the poem, and probably also my subsconscious tendency to try to make it fit within my own approach to writing poetry. I think it’s a good sign. If reading creative writing can make me creative, I don’t see why I should ask for more!

    Thank you for the reading,
    Ren

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