Original poem reprinted online here: "Beautiful, The Dead End," by Allison Davis
Originally read: March 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Allison Davis
The poem starts off with the title reading into the poem which has the poem focus in two similar directions: 1) focusing on the physical aspect (and commentary) 2) focusing on what the "body" is. I think what also differs with the usual "title then poem" deal is that when the title is the first word of the poem that the poem's actual focus is somewhere else and the first line is meant to compliment the focus.
For example, the actual first line of the poem (which is in tercets) is "of your body. So here, the focus is on the body and this is what the poem will be about; however, the main description is the main adjective -- the duality of beautiful, yet a dead end.
Meanwhile, the "body" accumulates different descriptions like "last shards of summer," and then the identifying feature of the body is the name -- Ohio. This poem then goes into the realm of synecdoche through a state -- this type of rhetoric is used mostly in political speeches where the speaker is trying to rally a group of people together to show positive or negative aspects of the state and the speaker vacillates between.
The line "pushing each other / midwest of decency" works as a kind of pun in regards to placement and the idea of gauging something (if I'm not mistaken, Ohio is mideast). The line above shows a sense of divergence between place and thought.
The rhetoric becomes stronger with each stanza, "toward failure" in stanza 3, "mud marked by heels," in stanza 4, "forced tameness" in stanza 5. And here I'm thinking the poem has to be a satire on political rhetoric because the claims have no basis to stand on -- for example, failure of what? Lack of decency? Or forced tameness -- how? The poem doesn't answer these questions; however, the interesting thing about this poem is how riled up the speaker is and how easily, through transparency, changes tone.
"enough language returned" is the line where the poem becomes self referential and changes tone. Usually, this type of line shows a certain sense of absurdity in language, and , as such, I found the rhetoric above this line a certain level of absurd, but the poem continues with the rhetoric, but in the other direction -- probably to affirm the satirical quality of the poem, "I'll long for as long as / Ohio river, beautiful, / letting me go." Also note this is the first time the speaker is introduces him/herself -- sort of like the outside victim role -- capable of seeing the escape and the inmates.
The poem expands outwards and inwards (working with the duality part of the poem) with the final two lines, "we leave in each other. / Beautiful, all that leaving." And yes I know that the first line I pointed out is part of a longer line, but the line works as an epiphany where the speaker kind of realizes that he/she escapes through the language of description, and the state leaves any tropes behind through interpretation. But essentially they are both trapped.