24.7.07

dripping with dark...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Closer


old road dreaming me back home
through coastal plain into the Gulf

stunted pines along the roadside
dripping with dark into night puddles

arcade of pecan trees into infinity
through which my memory roams

like spider webs over wounds
these bare branches over my eyes

maybe souls do flow into and out of the world—
that crow over corn stubble, scythe of light

off the truck’s chrome, swish of an icy
mare’s tail over the December sky

*

This poem showcases Kathryn Stripling Byer’s poetic strengths: place, language, and specificity. Byer’s poetry is an evocative presence on the page – “like spider webs over wounds”. The images stay with the reader. As the poem moves, the reader moves. Her use of descriptives makes the poetry all the more accessible. Her language is very direct and visual: old road dreaming, stunted pines, dripping with dark, arcade of pecan trees, crow over corn stubble, swish of an icy mare’s tail.

“Closer,” the final poem in Coming to Rest (LSU, 2006), is quite painterly in its creation of a landscape – very southern – haunted with an unknown that draws us in. This is where “souls do flow into and out of the world”. The poem is a glimpse into a place that is at once of the world and other worldly. A moment that makes the reader feel both complete isolation and an understanding of truth.

One of Byer’s great subjects is home – the leaving and the finding. In “Closer,” the wounds and the bare branches that cover the eyes let the reader know that something is missing, something has been lost. The journey, crossing a topography that is threatening in its beauty, is necessary. The “old road dreaming” that opens the poem establishes a world that is personal – a wilderness that is mapped into the speaker’s genetic core.

The ending moves beyond the more traditional nightmare world of dark roads and stunted pines, rising into the cold world of winter stars:

maybe souls do flow into and out of the world—
that crow over corn stubble, scythe of light

off the truck’s chrome, swish of an icy
mare’s tail over the December sky

Light, normally a comfort, an understanding, is used here to isolate the speaker, to show the enormity of the journey.

4 comments:

Pris said...

Lovely poem. You certainly did it justice.

Collin said...

I love Kathryn and I love this poem. She is a master at taking what would be cliched imagery in many poets' hands and making it work.

maybe sould do flow into and out of the world...

Love that line.

Liz said...

Really enjoyed this poem, Sam. The sense of isolation and the 'dripping darkness' make it very atmospheric.
Liked your rundown on it too.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks, Pris, Collin & Liz, for the comments. I appreciate the visit.

And I agree Collin, Byer does move beyond cliché. That's one of her strengths. I think it's because she - throughout her works - is committed to the voice in the poems. She believes.