Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Worst Fear

Remember the summer
I swam to the end of the dock?

Worked my way up, life jacket-less,
despite my crippling fear of water.

Went out every day with
someone to watch from the pier.

Swam a few more feet each time
until I reached open water-

a place where I could no longer
touch bottom, and the dock ended
so no one dry could grab me
if I slipped under.

I waded there a moment or two
in suspended animation
a fantastic combination of
buoyancy and bravery.
Do you remember?

But this is not that summer
and the moxy I worked up
is gone I discover as I jump
in from the end of the dock

skipping all the shallow parts
near shore, the slow start that
gave me courage before

and here I am screaming,
flailing, struggling hard
no reachable sand beneath me

and in their panic
drowning people often
pull rescuers down with them.


nckhrkman said...

i don't like the title, but it says a lot. "worst fear" indicates a single fear, so after reading the poem it does the trick of forcing the reader to wonder what this fear actually is. the immediate, obvious answer is a fear of water, but the rest of the poem delves further into a more complicated, ambiguous answer regarding confidence or lack of control. ambiguity is my biggest problem with this poem.

the ambiguity of speaker, audience, chronology, and conflict is what holds this poem back from being really great. there's a real terror, a real sense of drowning at the end of the poem, and the reader wants to understand the players involved in this crisis.

the image at the beginning of a (presumably) young child straying into deep water is very clear, very well handled. when the focus switches to the metaphorical, the conflict occurring this summer, things become fuzzy. you could simply be talking about a swimming-trip-gone-awry this summer, but i doubt it. there's some conflict, internal or external, that's plaguing you. the reader, however, is left to guess what exactly this conflict is, but has a very real grasp on how dire the situation is for you.

the addressee appears to be a parent or some figure that was there to witness you in your youth. this is complicated in the metaphorical section when the conflict is undefined and the roles of 'rescuer' and 'victim' are introduced. the reader does not know why the speaker is in danger or who is coming to save him or her.

the ambiguous time frame is also tricky, but can be easily remedied. 'remember the summer when i was x years old...' could be enough, just to make sure the reader understands that you were a child (i'm assuming).

the form, as it stands, works. i like the couplets you use for the caution of the memory, then the longer, more precarious stanzas toward the end. it isn't exactly lined up that way, but it's close, and i'd nudge it just a little to fully accomplish it. you could also experiment with this further by shortening the lines in the beginning to stress a slower pace, and then quicken the second half with longer lines for a faster, more uncontrolled pace.

it may be too gimmicky, but you may also want to experiment with the visual aesthetic by using a drop-off kind of line enjambment for the lines where you plunge into the water.

i like this one. it deals with fear more openly than a lot of your other poems. sounds more sincere, less guarded. has the framework to be really terrifying.

Laura said...