Originally read: February 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gary Soto
The reoccurring image here is the orange. Not only in this poem but from the poem "Oranges" also by Gary Soto. Did I pick this up on my first read? Nope. So I bring this up first because I wonder how much of a conversation this poem and "Oranges" have with one another. Is it only the image? Or is there contextualization issue where one image of the orange in a poem brings a different light to another image of the orange The idea behind this is focusing how poems connect with each other, perhaps through a collection, or solo.
As of now though, I only have this poem by itself, and, although I have read "Oranges", I feel that this poem stands on it's own and the image of the orange (and also others) within the poem creates unrepentant nostalgia.
So late confession stands for a confession in the most religious of terms. Here we don't know the age of the speaker, but the poem plays with the idea of age. In the first stanza, the images overpower the confessional aspect of the poem. Here the surreal images of an angel with an orange in a dream butts up against the image of the speaker only seeing black and white images, "[...] clouds dirty as towels / And geese I have yet to see again / Darkening the western sky."
Following the image comes a slight narrative in the second stanza, here the speaker confesses on dipping a toy within "dirty water" and sunk him to the bottom. Once again the focus is on the images where the speaker focuses on the "painted-on eyes flaking off." So why am I harping on the images in this poem.
Well, this poem is meant to serve as a "confession" and usually I expect some emotional baggage, or some sort of judgement call (what I did was wrong or right). Rather, which is very important to note in this poem, the speaker is confessing the event as much as he can and is awaiting judgement from "Monsignor" or even the reader. The speaker is making himself vulnerable.
The last stanza of the poem goes back to the images of the "orange," "angel" and "windowsill" Where the speaker acknowledges that "there is no angel with an orange at the edge / of my bed." Then this line comes after the acknowledgments, "There is no soldier / of God." Here, the implication of no "soldier" of god should come off as blasphemous, but the poem sets up a sort of observational stance, and even though "no soldier of god" can still come off as blasphemous, the context of the line is different -- not aggro, rather observational.
I think the final four lines of the poem sum up the poem:
"And the outside, between this living
And this dying. Monsignor,
Saintly man of this child's wonderment.
When will I see the geese again?"
A couple of things that make this part overly sentimental to me.
1) The over generalization of "living" and "dying," -- here the speaker is trying to sum up the meaning behind the process, and in essence directing (overly) the reader to see what the images mean. Yes, life and death -- but why focus on that?
2) "Saintly man of this child's wonderment" is the first judgement call of the poem in the guise of observation. The adjective of "saintly" is loaded and forms a question of what is saintly -- what has the speaker done to make the judgment of the man which is made through the lens of "child's wonderment" A little too honorable in judgement.
3) "When will I see the geese again?" Usually, I like rhetorical questions and I like this one somewhat. Yes, the line harkens back to the geese in stanza one, and the rhetorical question asks (practically begs) for a judgement to attain the past; however, I question if the judgement is too abrupt? Too much wanting to end the poem in the right place, on the right image. The line is expected, but it might be a little too blunt -- looking for an answer too quick.