Original poem reprinted online here: "Elegy" by Jaswinder Bolina
Originally read: March 22, 2013
More information about the Poet: Jaswinder Bolina
Past me wrote a lot about the usage of "image" in this poem, and how there's an interplay between the projected image, and the "now" image. But first, the first line irritates me a whole lot, "In sun the sunburned skin sloughs off the sunburned shoulder." I think it's the over alliteration and the repetition that does irritates me where, sonically, the adjectives, nouns, and verbs just mesh with eachother.
Then I realized, well, maybe this is the risky entry into the poem -- that the first line of the "Elegy" is meant to be blurred and distorted through meaning and sound because the poem isn't about the "body" (a mess of sorts falling apart according to the first line), but about how someone interprets the body.
So there's the second line, "Most folks believe this is the body's slow mend," and the repetition (with space) of "Most folks believe in the good yolk of the soul" and I should talk the "yolk" line in humor, but I don't. I feel the word "soul" and "body" set up a sort of play between definition and meaning. Not exactly spiritual, but leading to a redefinition.
The third stanza delivers a jagged perspective and centralizes the images with, "I believe in autopsy lingo of natural causes should be replaced" and here, for a line, there's something tangible here because (as past me points out) here is the introduction of the "I" speaker, and discussion of something not metaphysical.
Then the redefinition happens on the next line, "with of long-term exposure to the dim, unwavering radiation of the morning star." Past me wrote, "replacing [the replacement of the general of natural causes] ambiguous terms with specific (purply) language -- purpose? importance? joke?" And, for me now, I don't see the line completely as a joke, rather an escape mechanism. I think purple prose, at least in this case, is avoiding the actual ambiguous unknown aspect of death and instead replacing the terms with flowery terminology that builds up a sense of importance -- and the poem vacillates between both types of rhetoric.
The abruptness of "The evening they burn your body," is so sharp when juxtaposed against the previous line because of the plain matter of fact description, but then there's the long purply lines afterwords about what the speaker does, "arrange the crooked line of birdbaths to skip stones across / until the bell tower tolls its eight arguments against daylight" The image of the line is really vivid and the allusion to Donne (prehaps Hemingway) is kind of forced in, but fits in the overall scheme of the poem.
And with the mention of the poem as a simile to the actions of the speaker dealing with a cremation "like a poem turned on its side." Past me wrote, "overly-examined?" Current me thinks, over examining what? The speaker, the death, the situation? There's an added quality of self-awareness to the poem which was built up within the poem -- it's the type of self-awareness where the speaker is trying to figure out a way to deal with the situation, language as a tool as escapism through redefintion, linguistic acrobatics, simple language, but then the speaker can't escape the reality.
"The evening they burn your body" and this repetition is haunting which goes along with what the speaker is envisioning of the "you" greeting the speaker in the living room or the projection of the "you" in a movie.
But then the realization, which is terse, isn't as much heartbreaking or ephiphanic, rather like a quick deep sigh, "You don't exist."
And with the short line of "You're on fire" brings the situation and speaker to the present with no frills or anything, but at the same token not forward momentum. It is in the moment.