Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Riddles and My Denseness

Poem of the Day:
"A Psalm of Freudian Life" by Franklin Pierce Adams

Sometimes I can be dense...Mom insert anecdote [here].

Last night, while babysitting (yes, another post about those I sit) a ten-year old outwitted me with a riddle. It goes like this:

There is a couple on a honeymoon flight to France. The plane crashes. Every single person dies. The couple survives. How?

I had three guesses, but squandered all three: "They flew to the honeyMOON instead of France? They had parachutes. They had secret plane-crash-surviving powers?"

When I first read Adams' poem I did not pick up on his sarcastic tone. He's writing about Freud at a time when Freudian notions seem absurd, but are very popular. He writes, "Life is yearning and suppression;/Life is that to be enjoyed;/Puritanical discretion/Was not spoke by Dr. Freud" (lines 5-8).

Adams concerns himself with Freud's notion of the id, and the child-like drive to act according to pleasure; a total hedonism, "Nothing matters but Yourself" (line 24). He is slyly (I did not catch it until a second or third read) critical of Frued's theory of the id, and the idea that all humans are egotistical beings. Were there "Stories that perhaps another/Sailing o’er life’s Freudian sea--/A forlorn and dream-racked brother—-/Reading, might say, 'How like me!'" (lines 29-32).

There are a few witticisms that I initially wrote off as archaic word choices, and beyond my understanding. Adams writes, "Sleep is long, and dreams are straying,/And our hearts, though they may falter,/Still, like sexiphones, are playing/Wedding marches to the altar" (lines 15-18). I typed 'sexipohone' into, certain that it was an antiquated form of 'saxophone.' But alas, it does not exist. Adams manufactured the word, clearly ridiculing Freud's sexualization, fooling me once again.

The answer to the riddle is this:

Every single person died. The couple had just gotten married, and were therefore not single.

Curse you poets and ten-year olds with your wit and intellect!

A Poem A Day Audrey


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