Original poem reprinted online here: "I Remember the Look of My Ex-Wife Sitting Quietly in the Window on a Certain Day" by Albert Goldbarth
Originally read: March 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Albert Goldbarth
The poem kind of tricks the reader, but in a sterile, and interesting, kind of way.
The title of the poem brings in a sense of the personal -- even sentimental. The focus of the title being about the reflection of the ex-wife in the window, but not actually the ex-wife herself by having the prepositional phrase "in." Now, why do I bring up such a small detail. Well, this poem is all about details and how they are arranged. Like the first detail which is the epigraph by Sharon Waxman about how Nefertiti's looks, then the definition of the word "Nerfertiti means 'The Beautiful One Has Come" as though to corroborate the visual with the language.
And here, I assume that there's going to be a comparison between Nefertiti and the "Look of [the] Ex-Wife." But the tone of the poem continues as though encyclopedic. The second stanza describes the rendition of her, more importantly when it was made, 1340 BC.
The issue with time continues with the next lines, "and having survived the subsequent era's / destruction of most of the other sculptural references to her -- / essentially, the destruction of her sisters --" These line cut in different ways. The Encyclopedic tone of the lines shows the distance the speaker wants to have with the subject; furthermore, the "destruction of her sisters" is an interesting concept -- this literally refers to the multiple drafts of the same bust; however, the word "sisters" holds multiple meanings, all of them personal. Essentially, it's a hiccup in tone that could go either way.
Then we go back to time, "she was excavated in 1912" and ownership is challenged. In this stanza is a grammatical error which I feel works here, "by Egypt Britain France and Germany." Past me wrote, "different identities shifted together without the commas." To follow up with this assessment, that the grammatical error is another hiccup in the tone. With the lack of commas, I see that want is want no matter the nation, "the demanding of ownership" also reflects historical references. Nefertiti in the past ("beloved" by her people), and the Nefertiti bust that nations wanted.
In which Germany won out and put on display in 1923 (according to the fifth stanza). And the "international arguing" takes a more serious turn with the "Hitler war machine." And although the history, and the encyclopedic knowledge of the poem is there -- my mind goes back to Nefertiti and goes back to the Ex-wife? Why? Well, for me, the discussion of World War II is just that, a discussion -- but the very core of this discussion is bust -- Nefertiti -- and how the image of her is compared to by the war.
And of course, the allegory is more fleshed out and then I start to wonder what the "Hitler war machine" meant to the relationship or how "tanks and missiles and gas chambers" relate to the relationship. A bit hyperbolic (okay really, the end of a relationship = World War II), but in any case the allegory stands out at this point.
Then the time frame once again, "and in 1939" which brings up an image ends up hiding and distorted. What is left hiding in the cave? "her one good eye with the inlaid iris / and the one that had left the workshop blank / so many thousand years before."
The repetition of "salt" is interesting. Past me wrote:
"[the repetition is] dependent heavily on the multiple definitions and connotations of salt; furthermore, the repetition adds more importance:
*Why separate but listed together like the line above using contries
*Maybe all the definitions"
Presently, I would agree if the ending line didn't exist. What the ending line does is narrow in the definition of salt and sentiment. Automatically, salt, after reading the end refers to, "all of the stuff of weeping / and not one tear" the tear (or the lack of). The image works double with tears being the expectation, but falling and the salt referencing the actual place, a salt mine, that's holding. Hmm, another way to put this.
The word "tear" elicits sentimentality -- that there should be an emotional flow here, but what of the foundation? The bust? No it's a projected object. The countries? Through synecdoche perhaps. The speaker? This is the time where the speaker breaks from the descriptive tone and passes judgment.
The scene, the bust, the countries should weep -- but they don't, it's the outside that weeps. Still doesn't make sense...umm...well then.