Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sounds, Actions in the Boston Public Library

Poem of the Day:
"Hour" by Christian Hawkey
The Best American Poetry, 2006

Excerpt from "Hour"

My sixth sensurround
is down, my second skin
the skin I'm stepping
into: I lick
a new finger & hold it up
to the wind: O my beloved
what. O
my beloved what. O my
beloved shovel-nosed mole
can I clean the soil

Today after work I inhabited, for 3 hours at least, a thick wooden table at the Boston Public Library, reading materials for my senior essay.

During a spout of my research-reading I spotted a new table member in the bottom left corner of my glance. From the start I could tell that he had no book-related intentions; he came not to read, borrow or browse. Instead, he entered the library in order to luxuriate in the air-conditioning and rest his eyes.

He was homeless. I make no assurances that this assumption is correct but judging from his alienated look (bags, dirty clothes, emaciated build) and the fact that he merely rested in the library before moving on (to what, I know not) convinced me that the library to him was a solace, more so than I could ever imagine.

Hawkey's poem is sonically-focused and for that reason it is intense on the ear; he creates friction with varying sounds, his soft round vowels ("O," "shovel-nosed mole") and his hard abrupt consonants ("black, sightless," "tiny, webbed feet").

Thick wooden table at hand's length, I was the softness of Hawkey's poem, but also the less real. Much of his soft sound comes from his use of the archaic "O," a usage both superfluous and a bit absurd in a poem that concerns a mole. Also, "beloved." He uses the word often. It is both sonically light and out of place with the soiled rodent subject.

My library vagabond. Hawkey looked to him when he sounded out, "do you hear me/in the tunnel next to you" (lines 25-26). "[T]unnel next to you" rushes on with harsh disregard, the double "n" in "tunnel" pushing the reader quickly into the abrupt "next" and "to." In such lines Hawkey relays the reality of a mole's underground life. And, the life of my table-mate, not reading. Trying to cool down and to find a bit of comfort.

I wanted to tell him to grab a book, that if he wanted to escape not just the outside heat but his current situation a story was the best way. But, I kept to myself and escaped him instead.

A Poem A Day Audrey


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