This first one is by Karyna McGlynn:
A Red Tricycle in the Belly of the PoolI included this poem in the course packet for a seminar called "The Poem and the Idea." I love the way it tells its story. It's delivered with a certain uncertainty, as though depending on a faulty memory – or is the speaker simply a liar? (That "I'm sorry" is so sneaky, it could be sinister.) I've said before I hate description. The trick of this poem is that it uses description deceptively – you're forced to visualize the scene, and then, at the end, you have to revise your mental image. The water floods into your image as water floods into a pool. This poem also seems to describe a way of experiencing things, as though understanding were only available after the fact. (Isn't it?) We receive reality in dispatches.
the live oak over the nursery got a disease
they could only save one limb
it wasn't surprising; it wasn't that kind of nursery
a girl rode her red tricycle around the bottom of the pool
the pool had no water; it hadn't rained
the girl kept smelling her hand
it smelled like honeywheat, or the inside of a girl's panties
someone said, race you
she nodded okay and pedaled like hell
after three laps no one had passed her
she looked over her shoulder, lost her balance
ripped her hands & knees on the blue concrete
the one limb on the live oak curved like a question
would she need stitches again
there was already ink under her skin & iodine on her tongue
or was it the other way around
she could see black thread bunching
sewing centipedes under her skin
her throat burned and she couldn't move her legs
it wasn't a tricycle
it was something she couldn't get her foot out from under
she hated to stop or lose her shoe and, I'm sorry
the pool was full of water
This one's by Joyelle McSweeney.
PersuasionLike the McGlynn poem, this poem seems not quite sure of its story. At times it has a making-it-up-as-she-goes-along quality, at others it's like the reporting of a dream, full of illogical leaps and holes and misrememberings. But there's a seriousness, even an urgency, in the voice so we feel something is at stake, this isn't just a lot of hooey. Still, it's incredibly playful, really saturated with wordplay; it's as though the language used to tell the story could time-travel back and change the story. (In the real world there would be a story; in poetry there is only the language.)
Others were more economical than I. But I
had my red marble. I had action
figures weighting down the drapes
on tiny threads. That twisted and got smaller.
One door led
to a more economical room.
Perhaps a more economical view. The girl
across the hall was the same girl.
I climbed out across the telephone wires. I thought
they'd hold me, like the webbing of a lawn chair,
and like a wedding or a lawnchair they didn't. I kept
pulling chunks out of the hummock. I fell with my
fists full of humus. Into, of course.
At home the state-painter was painting the ghost oak. And
the window around the oak. The room around
She came from the same
town in Iceland.
Whither and whence I
With her eye
she came and came.
With her weather
eye she came.
I saw the damage this was doing to the van
would not cost six hundred dollars.
I pedaled off in my car.
My car got smaller.
It wouldn't fit my littlest brother!
It fell over.
Fell, of course, into.
Back at the ranch, it was a tenement.
I was a tenant of the studio-apartment.
I was building a house in French.
Expectorant--I was self-enlightened,
my efforts self-directed and sustained.
To the tune of eighty-seven dollars
I debated a suitable depth. A squirrel
at each level of the fence
with an apple for a face looked on blandly.
I mean red. Red-faced. Blindly.
Heavenly stage set comes
in on wheels and wheels around.
The fish wind up the concrete ladder
because they believe it's better
to reach a higher part of the rive.
to pour themselves out
while I pour myself into
the form that has survived.
my father leaves tomorrow
and he leaves this
afternoon. This is before
I set fire to my room,
pouring water in the electric baseboards
trying to wash a tiny brine shrimp
off the wall. It might have lived.
This is after my mother,
her father dead. Lay in bed.
Heard the Skylark song.
I think the McGlynn poem works mostly on the macro scale; with a different ending it wouldn't be so remarkable. The language is lovely, filmic, but it would stop there, at description. The McSweeney poem is most remarkable at the micro scale; it's full of little moves (puns and polysemy, definition by negation, exposed revision), little songs and little worlds.