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Summary:Stone presents a poem that celebrates love and life with poignancy and irreverence. At Christmas time, when it is cold and dark, a father peers past the "tops of pines" still trying to reach for stars and moves from the holiness of the moment to the sons asleep in the house, unaware in their dreams of boyhood things, "how fast we are all dying." Remembering another holy moment, when a child was born in a stable midst "cattle urine rising like steam," the father expresses his overwhelming feelings for life in a joyfully unexpected way: "I pee for joy."
Frank Gresham is the squire of Greshambury Manor in the fictional county of East Basetshire. His wife is the aristocratic Lady Arabella, daughter of Earl de Courcy. Because Lady Arabella's and her husband's tastes are more expensive than their means, Gresham goes heavily into debt and has to sell part of his property to the uncouth, but extremely wealthy, Sir Roger Scatcherd.
Thus, it is determined by Lady Arabella that their son, Frank Gresham Jr., must marry an heiress to restore the family fortunes. Doctor Thomas Thorne is the senior Gresham's close friend and advisor. Doctor Thorne is a bachelor who has raised his niece Mary as if she were his own daughter. In reality, she is the illegitimate daughter of Sir Roger's sister and the Doctor's brother. (Sir Roger had killed Henry Thorne in a fit of passion over his sister's shame; the Doctor sent Scatcherd's sister to America; and Scatcherd served time in prison before going from rags to riches in the railroad contracting business.)
The novel tells the story of the apparently hopeless romance between Mary Thorne and Frank Gresham; and Gresham's mother's attempts to have him marry into a wealthy family. Ultimately, both Sir Roger and his reprobate son, Sir Louis, die of complications of alcoholism. It then turns out that Mary Thorne is sole heir (as the "eldest child" of his sister) to Sir Roger's fabulous fortune. Eventually, Frank and Mary marry and establish their home at Boxall Hill, which is actually built on the land that Gresham had sold to Scatcherd.
In this poem a patient speaks to "Dr. Green," commenting on how much she likes him compared to her earlier doctor, "Dr. Gold," who wore a long face and would never smile. "Dr. Gold has track shoes on" but to Dr. Green she says: "You never seem / to be in a hurry even // though you're so busy . . . . " The patient would like "a little rest / before the next treatment, at least till / I'm stronger."
In the companion poem, "Dr. Gold & Dr. Green, II" (also found in One Word), the physician responds to his patient, Eleanor, who presumably wrote the first poem. He realizes that he himself is actually Dr. Green and Dr. Gold. Even though he tries to spend time with his patients, he now realizes that sometimes he must have appeared hurried and distant: "You tried / to say that each of us has two sides. / I wish I understood this before you died."
The Stone Diaries is the story of Daisy Stone Goodwill, an ordinary woman born in 1905 in Manitoba, who arrives in this world at the same time her mother leaves it, and who moves through the world as child, daughter, young wife, widow, mother, friend, grandmother, and old woman. What makes The Stone Diaries extraordinary, in addition to the quiet lyrical quality of Shields's writing, is the book's autobiographical form: Daisy tries to tell the story of her life by becoming a witness to her life in ways quite impossible in a traditional autobiographical format (e.g. she witnesses her own birth).
Woven throughout the book is Daisy's sense of never quite being in control, of never being the subject of her own life but rather being pulled along by forces beyond her control. Only during the last dreaming weeks as she lies dying, contemplating her own life and death, does she realize that she's never constructed the story of her life, which she is finally able to do as she "returns to currency all that's been sampled and stored and dreamed into being."
The "four voices" of this collection are Lila, her grown daughters Jennie and Sarah, and Jennie's daughter, Kate, whom Sarah has raised as her own. Sarah is a potter, and she gathers the women of the family together each year for the "vigil" of the wood-kiln firing of the pots she and her assistants have made during the year.
What the voices reveal is the story of, in Gibson's words, "three generations in a family shaped by alcoholism"--that is, the alcoholism of Jennie and Sarah's father, who is now dying in a hospice. Each woman holds secrets, and they reveal the secrets to the reader and, slowly, to each other as the story unfolds--secrets about the death of Jennie and Sarah's brother, about Jennie and Sarah's relationship to Kate, and about Kate's pregnancy.
Mr. Pitt-Rimmer is a demented elderly man who lives with his two daughters. They are entertaining their friends for the afternoon. When their attention is diverted, he runs away, stopping first at the dairy store to buy some cigarettes and Turkish delight. The proprietress recognizes him and calls his daughter, but Mr. Pitt-Rimmer again slips off.
He has various other encounters before his daughters pick him up later in the afternoon. "Promise us you won't be naughty again. It makes us so sad." But the old man later writes in the back of his book, "My daughters are keeping me prisoner. Help! I have not had a piece of meat for twenty years . . . ."
Summary:In this story, Earth's inhabitants have moved below terra firma where their every need is met and every act controlled by "the machine." A young rebel protesting against the loss of authenticity and the reverence for abstraction seeks to communicate with his mother about his need to go to the surface of the earth. This act of direct experience terrifies his mother who is sure that her son will be sentenced to "homelessness." The son does experience the beauty of the earth and returns to prophesize the end of the machine and the "civilization" it created.
Summary:This is a compact, strikingly vivid poem about fate--"what comes about apart from trying . . . generally of misfortunes." The narrator speculates about the story behind the single red high heeled shoe found alongside the highway. Misfortune is likened to an act of nature--being struck by lightning--a capricious event which alters one's life forever after.
Summary:This poem is one of several by Stephen Dunn in which the dynamics of married life are examined. The speaker begins by saying that in marriage "anything that can happen between two people" eventually will, including things that cause incredible hurt and pain. The couple portrayed in the poem stays together through tacit agreement; whatever the hurtful event, neither refers to it. Instead, conversation centers on harmless subjects such as the garden, work, and little aches. While living together in the same house, the couple remains separate because forgiveness is not forthcoming for the spouse who trespassed.
Summary:This is a generous and good-natured pastiche of a narrative poem evoking a "typical" Chekhov story and crowded with many of Chekhov's favorite images, settings, and situations. It begins: "Sunset clings to the samovar, abandoning the veranda, / but the tea has gone cold, or is finished . . . . " In the country house, Varvara Andreevna, Maximov, Dunia, Erlich, Kartahov, and Prigozhin (the doctor) carry on their ordinary business in the "oppressive midsummer twilight . . . . " Does Varvara Andreevna love the doctor? Does Erlich love Natalia Fiodorovna? Is anything going to happen? The poem ends: "In the provinces, too, nobody's getting laid, / as throughout the galaxy."