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Summary:In the future envisioned in the novel, many children are born with severe physical handicaps, the result of toxic environmental conditions. Their brains, however, are perfectly healthy. Scientists place the infants' stunted bodies in mechanical shells, then train them to perform complex technical tasks. At adolescence, their brains are removed from their bodies and placed in machines. Their machines are their bodies, over which they have complete control. The Ship Who Sang is the story of one of these children who is placed inside the hull of a space ship. She falls in love with one of the fleshly men who board her. The resulting trauma is resolved when it is decided that they will be partnered forever.
Summary:A man lies dying in his hospital bed, "amazed how hard it is to die" and how long it takes. A nurse looks in, he tries to sleep, he smells "the cheap / perfume Death wears." He wants to die, but "Something's stuck." He almost asked a counsellor to "Give me a shove." He is afraid that when the sun rises again, he will still be there, alive, in "that shrinking bed . . . another day."
Summary:Snodgrass writes about an old veteran who took seven months to die. The voice in the poem is that of a hospital attendant who provided some of the tedious, technical care that kept Old Fritz alive all that time. Though Old Fritz's "animal" may have "grown / sick of the world," his "mind ground on its separate / way, merciless and blind." He endured, he kept on living. Old Fritz raged against death, although he also "whimpered" and cried "like a whipped child . . . . "
Summary:I have never written against the dead, says the narrator, but in this instance, the death of her grandfather, she must. Why? Because, ominously, "he taught my father/ how to do what he did to me." The poem moves from a startlingly literal image of nursing the nameless dead, to the pocketwatch which was sent as a memento after this particular death, to specific personal memories of mistreatment at the hands of the grandfather. The narrator cannot regret this death.
The narrator has experienced an epiphany in which she can understand objectively, even forgive, her father’s abusive behavior toward her. She has seen in her mind’s eye her father as a child, in the bleak household where "something was / not given to you, or something was / taken from you . . . "; she wishes that the love she feels for her father now could have nurtured him as a child and saved him from becoming an alcoholic adult who mistreated his family.
The narrator observes how her dying father is changing as he dies. She experiences the process as if she were giving cosmic birth to him,
and as if she could protect him in the safety of her womb.
This dead body is to be treated with respect, not to be left alone or to be donated to the anatomy lab, or for organ transplantation. For the narrator, there is little difference between this body of her dead father and the unconscious body she remembers from so much of her childhood. She cannot make the distinction emotionally between the dead and the living father, " . . . this was the one I had known anyway, / this man made of rich substance."
A powerful lament over a father’s wasted life, and the "purgatory" of living in a household dominated by alcoholism and marital discord. Strong and graphic language weaves a complex web of conflicting emotions: hatred and self-hatred, scorn and pity, condemnation and forgiveness.
The poet tells of having suffered two great losses--losses so monumental that they are comparable to death. She wonders if another such devastating event awaits her in the future.
In the first stanza the speaker describes his experiences cleaning the autopsy room at night. Sometimes they left corpses or parts of corpses out on the table. Once they even left a woman's leg (he'd "seen them before").
At home, though, the speaker was so distracted by these experiences that he'd sit with his eyes closed, or stare at the ceiling, rather than interacting with his wife. He was distant and cold; she tried to warm him. His "fingers strayed to her leg. / Which was warm and shapely . . . . " But what about the woman's leg on the autopsy table? He ends with the paradox, "Nothing / was happening. Everything was happening." Life and death, beginning and end, warmth and coldness, closeness and distance, feeling and the denial of feeling: all are part of the whole.