Original poem reprinted online here: "His Elderly Father as a Young Man" by Leo Dangel
Originally read: January 16, 2013
More information about the Poet: Leo Dangel
This poem is a narrative. And while I thrashed narrative poems before (see: "Zombie Preparedness Plan" by Mary Jo Firth Gillett) for being "overly narrative" (too concerned with plot, having no sound in the lines, no purpose in the breaks and white space, etc.) I don't write about these things in this poem. Of course, I can go on and on thrashing how "narrative" the poem is; however, what I find interesting is that past me didn't care and focused on the plot. Current me thinks this could be a pretty good short story, and as a poem, well, I'll guess I'll get into that.
So the poem is a confession, and that's what past me focused on in the analysis. I wrote, "Sets up an interesting narrative -- the speaker (father) and the audience (child) is set up -- the person reading the poem is a voyeur." I think I wanted to use "voyeur" in a sentence. Anyway, so there' a triple perspective that is going on:
1) What the father is actually saying about his past.
2) How the intended (implied) audience (i.e. son) interprets the father's past.
3) How the unintended audience (reader) interprets the father's past.
Now, this is where I shift this poem away from a narrative (story) to narrative (poem). Number 2 on my list is never mentioned. We have a confessionial/dramatic monologue. I guess my argument would be that if this wanted to be a short story then I want to know more about the son, and Jennie Johnson.
Back to the poem though, past me was iffy about utilizing names in a poem; however, the usage of a name in the poem keeps a certain sense of authenticity of the confession.
And I further believe the authenticity of the poem because of the confusing, even contradictory, statements in the poem.
"I read the letter a hundred times / and kept it in a cigar box / with useless things I have saved." Past me wrote, "I like the contradiction here. The majority of the time people save what they hold dear." The list of items is weird though; however, their a story behind each one that's never followed through which is a theme of the poem which is exemplified at the end.
Past me wrote:
"There's so much psychology in the lines -- per-meditated secrets. And the ending looked at the psychological perspective. Is the father subconsciously having his delusion have more emotional impact on him than his wife. The son's point-of-view is interesting because of the silence. There is no interjection or judgement call."
So there's no explicit judgement call, there's things left in the air, the narrative is incomplete. The confession and technique in this poem is not the let down of the unfulfilled, rather the psychology of the unfulfilled.