Saturday, April 5

Posted by Laurel Garver on Saturday, April 05, 2014 2 comments
by Robert Lowell (1944-77)
photo by Sebastian Ritter, wikimedia commons

I chain-smoked through the night,
learning to flinch
at the flash of the matchlight.

Outside, the summer rain,
a simmer of rot and renewal,
fell in pinpricks.
Even new life is fuel.

My eyes throb.
Nothing can dislodge
the house with my first tooth
noosed in a knot to the doorknob.

Nothing can dislodge
the triangular blotch
of rot on the red roof,
a cedar hedge, or the shade of a hedge.

No ease from the eye
of the sharp-shinned hawk in the birdbook there,
with reddish-brown buffalo hair
on its shanks, one asectic talon

clasping the abstract imperial sky.
It says:
an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth.

No ease for the boy at the keyhole,
his telescope,
when the women's white bodies flashed
in the bathroom. Young, my eyes began to fail.

Nothing! No oil
for the eye, nothing to pour
on those waters or flames.
I am tired. Everyone's tired of my turmoil.

Lowell's use of sound patterns assonance really makes this piece sing. Note the assonance (repeated vowel sounds), like the a in flash...matchlight and the oo in tooth / noosed. I also admire the ch, j, sh consonance repeated in the stanzas (blotch, hedge, sharp-shinned, reddish) and the textural interplay of dryness and wetness in the imagery.

What lines or images stand out to you?

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  1. Hi! I love that you've combined A - Z and poetry month! Great idea!

    I'm not very experienced in poetry, but I did like the emphasis on sharp things in the poem: pinpricks, tooth, talon, and the sharp-shinned hawk.

    New follower :) Can't wait to see the rest of the poems you choose.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    Michelle @ In Media Res

    1. Thanks, Michelle. Lowell gets double duty with some of his word choices--they're about sharp things and have sharp or crisp sounds in them.

      I will be mixing in some resources as well. Up on Monday is a giveaway for a poetry writing resource.