Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5 O'clock (another revision of Bravery)

I wonder how you feel
around 5 O'clock
when you come home from work

if we take the joy out from you
and drag it across the kitchen floor

Send you retreating into the old
rocker, battered, to sit for the rest of the night
in front of the three-channeled television.

Like the strange failure of waves from
the broadcasting networks to the
flimsy antennae of the tv,

your signals are never strong enough
to decipher. A little fuzzier as the
night goes on, until they are entirely

You switch off and lock yourself
away behind a bedroom door.

And one thought reruns in my head,
a consistent 5 o'clock syndication:

One day you will drop dead, and I won't know a
Goddamn thing about you.

1 comment:

nckhrkman said...

i think this should be told from a third-person perspective, as distant, voiceless, and detached as you can make it. the image is very telling on its own, but i think your narration gets in the way of letting it really work. i know you don't often write outside the first person, but you can still inject your personal sentiment into the scene with the careful selection of details.

allow the title to inform the beginning of the scene, then have your father walk in, sit down, and watch television. place yourself and the 'we' family members in the scene around him, but at whatever distance you feel is appropriate to convey this sense of alienation.

form can work to your advantage. your father strictly adheres to this routine, so try arranging your stanzas into some kind of symmetry. this could even be an exercise of meter, if you really want to stress the idea of routine.

the current form can be streamlined: there's an unnecessary redundancy in the sixth stanza and the second line of the seventh stanza; the signal/antenna metaphor, while effective, is too long; first stanza can go.

what does your father do for a living? what is the family dynamic that drives him to seclusion? does he have any defining physical features or mannerisms? i understand that an underlying concept of this poem is your uncertainty, your desire to understand why he acts this way -- but you must have some idea or clue, something concrete about the home-life scene that can be used to give the reader some insight into his character.

my only concern about using the detached third person would be the handling of the last stanza. it's charged with voice, and probably my favorite line in terms of raw punch, but i don't think it carries the weight of the rest of the poem. it also feels out of place: the idea of not knowing anything about your father and not being able to understand why he cuts himself off from the family are two different, though connected, subjects. those lines either belong in a different poem or their sentiment needs to be introduced sooner in this poem.

i know you've been struggling with this idea forever, so i'm sure my advice of rewriting most of it isn't very helpful. sorry.

(also, a minor detail, but with the whole digital television switchover, the broadcast signals date the poem. not a huge deal at all, but when you read it in ten years, it'll be all "i remember when our hovercars had wheels.")