Friday, March 4, 2016

Bow [comma] and Arrow

We had great fun the other night with the comma in the title but I think now that it means something and I have an idea of what it means. But first, since it's short, the poem:

Bow, and Arrow

Not the war, but the part just after,
when a great stillness whose beauty we'd have
missed, possibly, had we instead
been spared, hovers over the ruins.

Put your head in among the flowers—
do it: but for
me this time, not yourself,
is what I think he said.

"Bow and Arrow" makes perfect sense in the first stanza, the ancient archery weapon standing in for the Queen of Battle (artillery, the mass slayer of troops in WWI). But the second stanza? What's it got to do with bows and arrows. Apparently not much. But here the comma after "Bow" in the title suggests we're dealing with a different "bow", a different sense, such as when someone comes on after a performance and bows to the audience (to thunderous applause in contrast to "great stillness"). As when a ballerina, say, bows her head over a bouquet she's just been handed, her partner, perhaps, whispering to her to do it again but for him this time (or that's what she thinks he says).

There are, of course, no ballerinas in Verdun. But there were graves and flowers were placed on them. And a disquieted corpse might "say" to a self-conscious mourner to repeat her gesture of mourning but for him this time — as we readers should hear the poem itself calling for our closer consideration.

1 comment:

Terry said...

Very nice commentary, Tim!