Showing 101 - 110 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice

Persimmons

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In the poem, persimmons are a symbol of several elements that have figured importantly in this Chinese narrator's life: they stand for painful memories of cultural barriers imposed by language and custom, and for a present-day loving connection to an elderly, blind father. The poet begins with a schoolboy incident in which he was punished for not knowing the difference between "persimmon" and "precision" and makes a play on other words which sound similar and "that got [him] into trouble." He takes revenge later, when the teacher brings to class a persimmon that only the narrator knows is unripe, as he "watched the . . . faces" without participating. Persimmons remind him of an adult sensual relationship with Donna, a Caucasian woman, and of his attempts to teach her Chinese words which he himself can no longer remember.

The second part of the poem describes the role persimmons have played in his father's life and in their relationship. To comfort his father, gone blind, the narrator gives him a sweet, ripe persimmon, so full and redolent with flavor that it will surely stimulate the senses remaining. Later yet again, the father and he "feel" a silk painting of persimmons, "painted blind / Some things never leave a person."

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The Promise

Olds, Sharon

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A fierce, powerful poem in which sexual and emotional intimacy between a couple reach their ultimate expression in the renewal of a promise "to kill each other", should one or the other become incapacitated. The narrator addresses her (his?) partner directly as "you"; so entwined are these two ("the halves of a single creature") that the reader isn’t certain whether the narrator is a man or a woman. The juxtaposition of the romantic restaurant setting, the deeply intimate thoughts, and the grim subject under discussion is striking: " . . . drinking Fume’ . . . we are taking on earth, we are part soil already . . . and always . . . we are also in our bed, fitted naked closely . . . ." One of the pair is afraid that the other won’t keep the promise, but "you don’t know me if you think I will not kill you."

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Checklist

Dunn, Stephen

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short poem is about work--all kinds of work--and what it takes out of us--physically, emotionally, spiritually: "All the work / that makes love difficult . . . that reaches the intestines and sprawls."

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The Ship Pounding

Hall, Donald

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Poet Donald Hall writes of his vigil over wife Jane (poet Jane Kenyon), gravely ill with leukemia. To him, the hospital where he spends his days with her is a ship whose huge pounding engines keep the propellers turning so that the voyage to harbor can safely be made. The ship passengers "wore masks or cannulae . . . but I believed that the ship / travelled to a harbor / of breakfast, work, and love."

Hall writes about what he wrote at the time: " ’. . . bone marrow restored . . . I will take my wife . . . home to our dog and day.’ " After weeks of treatment, wife Jane is discharged, months pass, and now, at home, Hall re-reads his own words as he listens anxiously "to hear Jane call for help," and prepares to "make the agitated / drive to Emergency again," knowing that there is no safe harbor and that the ship is going nowhere, a " . . . huge / vessel that heaves water . . . / without leaving / port, . . . / without arrival or destination . . . . "

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Listen Carefully

Levine, Philip

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker, a young male, relates how he and his 26 year-old sister live together. They both work; she rises before dawn, he, later, returning home after one a.m. They sleep in the same bed. The sister is an assembly-line worker, skilled at her job, but "let me be frank about this: . . not smart." He helps her with the chores of daily life--answering the mail, cooking (cookbooks are too confusing for her). She has been unlucky with men, some of whom have physically abused her: " I've rubbed / hand cream into the bruises on her shoulders . . . I've even cried / along with her."

There is a fond intimacy between them. But is it sexual? "By now I believe I know / exactly what you're thinking" says the brother, three-quarters of the way through the poem. How could they resist sexual intimacy? His sister is beautiful, he admits to being curious about her body, she is vulnerable and needy. Well, if that is what you think, says the speaker "you're / the one who's wrong. You haven't heard a word." [41 lines]

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Arrows

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Similar in theme to Hoagland's poem, Emigration (see this database), "Arrows" presents us with a series of images that convey what it is to be "a sick person." The poem is divided into three short sections, moving from the generic sick person waking up to face another day, to a first-person parody of Whitman's song of "the body electric" in which the speaker sings "the body like a burnt-out fuse box." Hoagland piles metaphor upon metaphor in a tour de force that evokes sickness. The concluding section, from which the poem takes its name, compares the sick person to a stoic martyred saint--"bristling with arrows"--who has "that ability to say, 'None of this is real' . . . ."

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Toenails

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Dec-07-2006
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This amusingly told narrative by a surgeon/author begins by describing how "wrong-headed [it is] to think of total submersion in the study and practice of medicine." He sets aside time to read at his neighborhood library, where he befriends six elderly, indigent "regulars." In spite of himself, the physician will out. His powers of medical observation and empathetic character lead him to perform a most menial task: cutting the overgrown toenails of these severely arthritic people in order to alleviate their pain.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story is told from the perspective of Julian, a recent college graduate who appears to be waiting for employment commensurate with his education; he lives at home with his solicitous widowed mother. The setting is the recently integrated South of the 1960’s. Events unfold during a ride on an integrated bus, in which all of the story’s complex relationships are played out: the vindictive, self-deluding dependency of Julian on his mother; the insightless yet well-intentioned doting of his mother, who is tied to the societal conventions in which she was raised; the condescension of "enlightened" whites toward blacks; the resentment of blacks toward well-meaning whites- all depicted with great skill and humor.

The crisis occurs in a confrontation between Julian’s mother and a black woman wearing the same hat, when the mother tries to give a penny to her counterpart’s child. In the incident, Julian’s mother suffers a stroke to which Julian is at first oblivious, being so consumed with fury at his mother’s (to him inappropriate) gesture to the child. When he realizes how disabled his mother is, Julian is overwhelmed with grief and fear; the extent of his self-deception is fully confirmed.

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Sound Shadows of the New World

Mehta, Ved

Last Updated: Dec-07-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This account by the well known Indian/American blind writer describes experiences when he came to the United States at age 15 from New Delhi to attend the Arkansas School for the Blind. The title derives from an unusual ability (which Mehta possesses) to navigate one’s way by perceiving the physical surroundings "as sound-shadows by means of echoing sound and changes of air pressure around the ears." As a precocious teenager, Mehta had high ambitions for his future; this important period of his life represented both an opportunity and an impediment, requiring tremendous cultural, emotional, and physical adjustments.

Very well conveyed are the driving desire to be like sighted people, the need for independence and control, and to be accepted in the foreign culture while remaining in some ways superior to it. There are fascinating descriptions of how Mehta learned to travel with minimal assistance, high-dive, package ice-cream in a factory; of how he used money intended for other purposes to build an electronic retreat in a broom closet which allowed him to tape record, type, and to listen to Edward R. Murrow’s broadcasts, and of how he then paid back the money by taking correspondence courses in order to finish school one year early.

The normal adolescent awakening of sexuality, and the ambivalent dependence on parental guidance are also important aspects of the book. Writes Mehta in retrospect,"The three years of my life spent in Little Rock became sealed in a compartment of my mind which I dreaded to open . . . because . . . the near-total submersion in a residential school for the blind seemed to accentuate my blindness, when all along my aspiration had been to be a well-adjusted member of the seeing society outside."

 

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Jean Beicke

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Dec-07-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The setting is the children's ward of a hospital in Paterson, N.J. during the Great Depression. Alternating between a cynicism born of desperation, and empathetic concern, the physician-narrator describes the sorry condition of his young patients, virtually abandoned by their parents. He muses that they would be better off left untreated so that they would not have to live the inevitably wretched lives ahead of them.

One child in particular has captured his attention. She is Jean Beicke, an eleven month old, malnourished, deformed girl suffering acutely from broncho-pneumonia. The nurses and he look after her, and she responds to their care by taking nourishment and gaining weight. This is tremendously rewarding and reinforces their interest in her, but to their consternation she continues to be very ill. "We did everything we knew how to do except the right thing." "Anyhow she died." The benumbed mother is persuaded to allow an autopsy; the physician wants to understand what went wrong although he "never can quite get used to an autopsy."

The postmortem uncovers an infection of the mastoid process which has spread to the brain. The narrator and the "ear man" berate themselves for having failed to take proper steps to identify and treat the infection. In the end, however, the physician is still unable to resolve the dilemma of wanting passionately to have saved his patient's life, and knowing that the life saved would have been one of misery.

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