Originally read: April 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: David Keplinger
I find this poem allusive heavy towards Beowulf. Or is it me trying to make the poem allusive heavy through the term "The Haunter Mere." In any case, the poem tries to balance the "real" with the "allusive" or maybe not. It's weird since the tone of the poem seems to shift with every sentence. Well since this is a short poem then I should go by sentence by sentence.
"He who'll lose his bladder calls it Three Days Down, or / The Haunted Mere." So here's when I think the poem is allusive heavy due to the way the sentence is constructed. Note how the third person perspectives adds a mythic feel to the line also the renaming of something as something else as "Three Days Down" (which it can be taken as modern vernacular) or, more importantly allusive wise, "The Haunted Mere" -- I don't know if the line is an absolute allusion to Beowulf, but the tone sets ups something like this.
But the tone starts shifts to the more medical with the next sentence, "It must be reconstructed from / other body parts." "It" referring to the bladder, Three Days Down, The Haunted Mere, or maybe even loss. When a mythic line is next to a very straight forward line, I feel that the speaker isn't trying to add too much depth at the moment, but wants to point out what the speaker will go in depth into.
"I imagine what those parts will be, elastic like / the wrist, thin like the skin where the cheek meets the / tragus of the ear." Here's where the poem goes more medical, but through multiple similes. Note how the speaker describes what he/she imagines the material necessary for reconstruction ("those parts") are through other body parts -- a wrist, the thin skin between the tragus and the cheek -- something elastic that me, as the reader, doesn't expect something internal to be -- yes, there's the struggle here between internal reconstruction and external materials.
"Small mushrooms have begun to grow / along the inner lining of the bag." Note that the speaker goes back to the renaming, but this time the renaming is internal, "the inner lining of the bag" should reference the bladder. Also note that "small mushrooms" brings me back to the mythic sentiment in the first line a little, but at the same time, I sense the "small mushrooms" to be polyps -- something cancerous or destructive forming within the body. In either case the "reality" and the "mythic" is straddled a bit here.
"Doctors scrape the / lining; but then, the mushrooms again." Here is the first "action" of the poem, the "Doctors scrape." Rather than the speaker being in his imagination or renaming what's present -- here the action is more visceral (yes, I know "grow" is an action, but doesn't hold the same register for me as "scrape"). But also note that when the mushrooms again could refer to the return to the allusive mythic ideals, or out of remission.
"You would have / to swim into that lake, he says, not breath for days, to / kill its monster" Grendal? Yes, for me the outward pull is the allusion -- but what does the monster serve in this poem? Cancer? Fighting to get to the real? Fighting to stay in the imagination?
"That's how he talks. That's the only way." These lines work as a unit for me. Who does the he refer to? The speaker, the doctor, or someone entirely different. What the first sentence does is acknowledge the reconstruction of the "he" -- the mythic and the real. "That's the only way." Solidifies a sense of coping. There's no other way to cope (speaker, doctor, or someone else) unless the tone shifts, or the allusions are there, or as past me puts it Speaking as though the speaker is the hero."