Obsessive – Marvin Bell
It could be a clip, it could be a comb;
it could be your mother, coming home.
It could be a rooster; perhaps it’s a comb;
it could be your father, coming home.
It could be a paper; it could be a pin.
It could be your childhood, sinking in.
The toys give off the nervousness of age.
It’s useless pretending they aren’t finished:
faces faded, unable to stand,
buttons lost down the drain during baths.
Those were the days we loved down there,
the soap disappearing as the water spoke,
saying, it could be a wheel, maybe a pipe;
it could be your father, taking his nap.
Legs propped straight, the head tilted back;
the end was near when he could keep track.
It could be the first one; it could be the second;
the father of a friend just sickened and sickened.
from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2000)
This week’s poem is impressive in the way it works the theme of obsession via sound and rhyme. The first stanza is pretty straightforward with its end rhymes; tension is created within each line, however, by the subtle use of consonance within each line (“clip” “comb” “mother” “home” “paper” “pin”). Obsession is implied in the use of the word “it” to open each line. The poem departs from this structure, repetition, and rhyme in the second stanza. The voice then becomes clearer, distanced. This distance and interruption then makes the return to rhyme in the third stanza all the more dramatic. This last stanza’s rhymes, however, are slant/off (“pipe” “nap” “second” “sickened”). This fraying of the preciseness of the first stanza brings the poem back into the immediacy of obsession, with the poem’s ending adding more possibilities to what “it could be” rather than resolving the obsessive meditation.
This new monopoem also features the ink and pencil sketch shown here and will be sent along to the 10 winners of the Small Fires Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to all who entered!
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