Original poem reprinted online here: "The Drought" by Gary Soto
Originally read: February 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gary Soto
Reverse-anthropomorphism. Humans taking on the quality of non-living objects. I know there's a literary term specifically for this that is not Reverse-anthropomorphism, but I can't think of it right now. I read this poem again, and then looked at the notes that I wrote in the past, "Who does 'they' refer to?" "Who is 'their' referring to?"
I think for yesterday's poem I harped on the ambiguous pronoun and how they are used. If a poem is only ambiguous pronouns I feel a sense of cheapness, like "I should know who 'they' are just by reading the poem or collective subconscious." Most of the time I don't. But in this particular poem, the environment defines the people "they" "their." So in the first stanza when the speaker personifies the "cloud as shouldering" and "scarping their bellies gray on the cracked shingles of slate" a dual image appears. Past me focused on the landscape interpretation, "visually interesting -- meaning that there's an outer covering to the clouds, silver, white?"
Meanwhile, I think that, if the landscape describes the people, find the images rather bleak. People who sheltered themselves while their bellies slimmed or were pushed back.
So "they" could refer to people or the clouds. The ongoing duo metaphor travels and describes. In stanza two there's description of "roads that went trackless" "houses blown open." Now as a visual, there's no connection between the roads and the houses versus the clouds -- it's a panning image. Applied to people, there's no connection between landscapes.
The dismal feel on a people level continues while the landscape scenes continue. However, the last stanza disregards the metaphor and goes direct:
And the young who left with a few seeds in each pocket,
Their belts tightened on the fifth notch of hunger--
Under the sky that deafened from listening for rain.
The first two lines focuses on the people -- or rather what's left -- the young who are the only one able to leave. The last line ties in the ongoing "cloud/people" metaphor listening for rain which is a bit cliche (rain = savior) but fits with the poem.