Showing 11 - 20 of 20 annotations contributed by Terry, James
Summary:In rhyming couplets, the author describes his loathing for his body--his "fleshy clothes" and his "epidermal dress"--and describes wanting to dispense with "the rags of my anatomy" to become pure sense or spirit. The difficulty, of course, is imagining oneself without a body, so that Roethke is forced to close with his ideal of being "a most / incarnadine and carnal ghost."
Summary:This long (598 page) novel manages to portray serious moral questions while spinning an entertaining tale with complex characters and plenty of humorous touches. Wilbur Larch is the young physician who chooses to offer women either "an orphan or an abortion" in early 20th century rural Maine. Homer Wells is an orphan who just cannot stay permanently placed in a home and who gradually grows up as Larch's surrogate son and apprentice. Just as Homer realizes that he opposes abortion on principle, he is swept off to a coastal apple orchard. There, additional moral rules are called into question, particularly in a very nontraditional set of family and sexual arrangements.
Mr. Sweet is a neighbor of the narrator, who is initially a little girl summoned with the rest of her siblings whenever Mr. Sweet is threatening to die. The narrator describes how she and her brothers loved Mr. Sweet, despite the fact that he was an indifferent cotton farmer, a frequent drunk, and an inveterate smoker. Somehow the faults of the old man, including his falling-down bouts of drunkenness and his slovenly personal appearance, are not impediments to the devotion he inspires or the affection for him on the part of the narrator and her brothers.
Each time the children are summoned, Mr. Sweet is reputed to be at death's door. "To hell with dying," the narrator's father would say. "These children want Mr. Sweet!" Then the youngsters would leap on the man in bed and begin their miraculous revival. By turns tickling and kissing Mr. Sweet, the neighbor kids manage to revive him time after time. The narrator comes to have faith in her unfailing ability to bring him back to life, and several times the children succeed when the local doctor had given up hope.
Nearly two decades pass, and the narrator is in graduate school when another summons comes. She flies back to the rural South and hastens to the bedside of the old man, now over ninety. But this time, after a brief return to consciousness, Mr. Sweet dies.
It is the voice of the woman in bed that makes this poem, and she is a tough character as she reveals herself, physically and otherwise. "I won’t work / and I’ve got no cash. / What are you going to do/about it?" she demands in the first few lines. She implies that she is a loose woman and perhaps even comes on to the physician: "Lift the covers / if you want me . . . ." and later, "Corsets / can go to the devil-- / and drawers along with them-- / What do I care!"
The woman shifts subjects rapidly, between poverty and sexuality, hinting that she might be pregnant again, writing off her two sons. At the end, she delivers a proud challenge to the physician who has come to see her in the abandoned house: "Try to help me / if you want trouble / or leave me alone-- / that ends trouble. // The county physician / is a damned fool / and you / can go to hell! // You could have closed the door / when you came in; / do it when you go out. / I’m tired."
A young farmer and father of three, Cory Johnson has cobbled together his own corn sheller with old parts and a new electric motor. His four-year-old son Bobby catches a hand in the gears, and Cory can only free him by amputating the hand with a hatchet. Over the next two decades, this accident haunts Cory as a violation of the one condition that had given meaning to his life--his fatherhood.
Although Bobby grows to normal adulthood and manages perfectly well with prosthetics, the fact that neither he nor others will blame Cory only compounds the father's depression. Cory slips inevitably toward madness and, in a gothic conclusion, re-enacts his crime in a way that will ensure punishment the second time.
Two radically different people find themselves together on a hospital roof garden, where they first come to terms with each other, then with their pasts, their illnesses, and death. Parmigian has a fruit and vegetable stand, a terminal cancer, and a bitter wit. Richard Landau is an investment adviser in fine art, fastidious, but haunted by his childhood escape from the Holocaust.
Only in for tests, Landau becomes forced to confront Parmigian's fatalistic view of the world. As Parmigian taunts and jokes, he draws Landau into his laughter and wild imaginings, as key weapons in the fight to stay alive.
Summary:In a short 28 lines, Jarman captures the hothouse images of a bout of fever and the dreariness of an urban apartment where he recuperates under the care of his spouse. He can feel the way that, as he gets better, his wife's emotions unravel. She has suppressed her hatred of the apartment and the city--and perhaps, of his requirements of her as a nurse, despite the title's reference to marriage vows. As she cries, Jarman addresses himself in conclusion: "You have married the patient wait for exhaustion."
Summary:In typical, twisted Cummings syntax without punctuation or capitalization, the author relates an encounter with an unconscious drunk on the street. Other staunch citizens hurry by. The drunk is "swaddled with a frozen brook of pinkest vomit," one hand "clenched weakly dirt," and his trouser fly is open. The author takes up the challenge of a good Samaritan, brushing off the "stiffened puke." But he closes with the opposite of self-righteousness: "i put him all into my arms and staggered banged with terror through a million billion trillion stars."
Summary:Sometimes I'd spend the whole night coughing up / what I'd been breathing all day at work. With this beginning to a 20-line poem, the author presents the plain, straightforward suffering of a laborer with lungs damaged as a result of his job in a cotton mill. The doctor he consults simply advises that he get a different job, at which the speaker scoffs: "as if / a man who had no land or education / could find himself another way to live." His foreman more humanely transfers him to an outside position loading boxcars. But the damage has been done: "I'd still wake / gasping for air at least one time a night. / When I dreamed I dreamed of bumper crops / of Carolina cotton in my chest."
An apostrophe to a friend of the author, a devout Catholic who died of leukemia, this poem moves through a spectrum of grieving emotions. The poet remembers an ironic comment: "and you said, when someone asked / if you’d have the operation offered, / ’I don’t have a choice’: / you were right. Your choice was death / or death." Later, he angrily swears at the attempted reassurances of the priest, developing his own bleak vision of God, but he finally concludes: "I can’t scorn your beliefs, / dare not laugh, suffer or sneer. / After all, it’s me who’s writing this / as if you’d hear."