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Divided into three titled sections: "What Man Might Kill," "The Nurse's Task," and "The Body Flute," the poems in this volume detail moments in the life of a nurse who is also a mother who once [in imagination] dragged her daughter from a wrecked and burning car; a daughter who stood on the stairs and listened to her mother's voice; and a lover who is aware of how her own trained clinical gaze and the gaze of desire sometimes intersect.
The poems range from a whimsical reverse-reel footage of memories that reach back to the moment of conception in "The Smoke We Make Pictures Of" to a scene from childhood when she was rushed to the hospital and came home vowing to love like the "women in white bright enough to burn / running with me in their arms"--a love she describes as "Fierce. / Physical," to a poem that imagines the life of the murderer, to poems that let us into the intimacy of a nurse keeping vigil by the dying, cleaning shriveled bodies, attending women giving birth. "I Hear the Cries of Women" is a litany of memories of "Women in the clinic waiting room" who "wanted to please / wanted to be whole / had no choice / couldn't speak / wasn't heard."
Stark and striking, these poems revel in language that calls suffering by its many names. They alter the distances we keep on pain, reframe what we are repelled by and honor the gritty, sometimes gory work of nurses who are willing to imagine the lives of their patients and lean close over the stink of decay to bless the dying.
The aging and isolated Austin Fraser paints vividly realistic images inspired by his past; he then covers them with a filmy top coat that obfuscates the clarity. His housekeeper thinks he spoils his work with this "style."
Son of a privileged mining magnate, he spent his summers on the northern shores of the Great Lakes, and his winters in upstate New York. His model, Sara, opened her life to him, and waited. He took without giving in return. His good friend George, destined to inherit his father's China Hall, is satisfied, it seems, with a meager life in porcelain painting and selling--trite, cozy images that Austin scorns. They both remember Vivian, a beautiful sophisticate who floated through their lives one summer long ago. Austin has been away in the big city for many years, but he has a hankering to see George again. Vivian reappears and goads Austin to make the journey back in time.
Wounded in the war, George has found a partner in Augusta--a fragile nurse, haunted by her horrifying war experience and addicted to morphine. But when George is confronted with Vivian again, the peaceful stability vanishes. To his amazement, Austin discovers that George had actually married Vivian that summer, but she left him at the urging of his mother. Her return opens painful wounds. After a night of recollection with Austin, Augusta slips away. Austin waits downstairs while she overdoses on morphia. George finds her dead and takes his own life too. Austin has the bodies removed.
What is the nature of your country? the voice of authority asks. "Its frontiers keep changing," the refugee answers. ("Refugee," p. 72) For Dannie Abse the frontiers of imagination continue to expand, though he is more than a half century into the project of poetry. However, the nature of his country remains unchanged. That country includes medicine, literature, history, a Welsh and Jewish heritage, a strong narrative voice, and intelligent wit. As Stanley Moss writes on the back cover of Be Seated, Thou, the country also includes "mystery, moral sunlight, a gift for the simple truth."
Dannie Abse's earlier volume of Collected Poems was entitled White Coat, Purple Coat (1991) and represented his work from 1948 to 1988. The present volume includes two books of new poems that were published in England between 1989 and 1998: On the Evening Road (1994) and Arcadia, One Mile (1998).
The epigram of this poem is a quotation from The Aeneid in which Virgil describes the infants seen by Aeneas at the entrance of hell. The babies had been "torn from their mothers' breasts" and died before their time. This 96-line poem (24 quatrains) begins with the observation that there has never been a poem written in praise of an antibiotic. Poets waste their time on "emblems" rather than the "real thing."
At this point Sappho appears and conducts the author down into hell, which is somewhat like "an oppressive suburb of the dawn," and she peers across the river to see hordes of women and children who had died of cholera, typhus, croup, and diphtheria. Sappho tells her that these women should not be defined as ciphers--court ladies or washer women--but rather as women who once "stood boot deep in flowers once in summer / or saw winter come in with a single magpie / in a caul of haws." The dead were once real people with their own life stories; real women, rather than aging statistics. The author will remember "the silences in which are our beginnings." [96 lines]
In this collection, Thomas Lynch, a funeral director, examines many of the same topics he explores in his essays (see this database for annotations of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade and Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality). In section one, he writes about sin and redemption ("Attende Domine," "Inviolata," "Panis Angelicus"), death and grief ("Late April," "Month’s Mind,"), love and sex ("O Gloriosa Virginum," "Casablanca," "Veni Creator Spiritus," "The Hammock"), and introduces his own point-of-view as one who tends the dead ("In Paradisum").
In the second section, Lynch delves more deeply into sin ("Byzance") and memory. In the section’s first poem, "Liberty," Lynch introduces himself as a man from a "fierce bloodline of men," and in the next five poems writes about "Argyle," perhaps a relative, perhaps an alter-ego. A long poem, "The Moveen Notebook," follows, relating the story of Lynch’s family home in Ireland and his relatives who lived and died there, ancestors who are also represented in Lynch’s essays. The rest of the poems expand upon family and memory and serve to complete the portrait of the narrator, a man who tends "toward preachment / and the body politic," who rages and who wants to "offer a witness" ("St. James’ Park Epistle").
The poems in section three serve as laments. Here Lynch addresses the failures of gods and men ("A Rhetoric upon Brother Michael’s Rhetoric upon the Window," "One of Jack’s") and the wonder of aging ("Loneliest of Trees, The Winter Oak"). But the main body of this section comprises stark poems about women and poems about Lynch’s work ("Heavenward," "The Lives of Women," "That Scream if You Ever Hear It," "These Things Happen in the Lives of Women," "How It’s Done Here," "At the Opening of Oak Grove Cemetery Bridge").
In "Couplets," Lynch speaks of teaching his sons the funeral business and the horrors they witness. In the brief poem "Aubade," he tells of an abused woman’s suicide. The last poem of the book, "Still Life in Milford--Oil on Canvas by Lester Johnson," is both a portrait of the town and of the author: "Between the obsequies, I play with words."
The narrator, a writer, prides himself on his astute review of Hugh Vereker's latest novel. Vereker dismisses his efforts, explaining that all critics have "missed my little point," "the particular thing I've written my books most for," "the thing for the critic to find," "my secret," "like a complex figure in a Persian carpet." The narrator racks his brains and, in desperation, tells his friend Corvick of the puzzle. Corvick and his novelist fiancée, Gwendolyn, pursue "the trick" without success until Corvick, traveling alone in India, wires Gwendolyn and the narrator "Eureka! Immense."
He refuses, however, to divulge the secret to Gwendolyn until after they are married, and then dies in a car crash. Since Gwendolyn refuses to share her knowledge, the narrator speculates, "the figure in the carpet [was] traceable or describable only for husbands and wives--for lovers supremely united." She marries Drayton Deane, and after her death, the narrator approaches Deane to discover the secret. But Deane is surprised and humiliated by the news of his wife's great "secret," and he and the narrator conclude by sharing the same throbbing curiosity.
Frank is an emergency medic and ambulance driver working night shifts for Our Lady of Mercy hospital in Hell's Kitchen, New York City. The novel begins with Frank's resuscitation of an elderly man called Mr. Burke, who has had a heart attack, and ends a couple of days later with Mr. Burke's death in the hospital. Frank is haunted by the patients he has failed to save, some of whom inhabit his experience like kinds of ghosts.
Most insistent is a teenage girl called Rose who died during an asthma attack, in part because Frank was unable to intubate her in time. He is also unable to forget his marriage, which ended because of the deadening effects of his work. And now Frank is also haunted by doubts about the value of restoring life.
He has successfully started Mr. Burke's heart, but the man is brain dead. Frank thus watches as Mr. Burke's family is first given hope and then must learn that there is none. Frank almost falls in love with Mr. Burke's drug-addicted and disillusioned daughter, Mary, perhaps seeing in her an opportunity for a mutual restoration to health.
But when her father finally dies--when the attending realizes that the patient's struggle hasn't been the "survival instinct" but rather a "fight to die"--she blames Frank, who recognizes that his purpose is not simply to keep people alive (or to bring them back from the dead), but rather that "saving lives" means preserving their value, somehow, in his memory. He walks away from the hospital, and when he gets home, Rose--her ghost, and Frank's own symbol for all the patients he hasn't resurrected--is waiting there, to forgive him.
Summary:Shakespeare considers the destructive power of time: it can ruin "lofty towers" and destroy land and bodies of water. He realizes that time will eventually tear him from his beloved, and mourns her death to come.
Summary:Picturesque autumn and evening imagery is an analogy for the changes that occur during aging. These changes are "perceiv[ed]" by one's beloved, whose love grows stronger in the face of the knowledge that death will come "ere long."
Summary:The aging narrator identifies strongly with his apparently young and beautiful love. He also believes that the love within his heart keeps his beloved youthful. The sonnet considers how humans perceive the aging process in themselves by observing it in those they love.