Original poem reprinted online here: "Absences" by Dom Moraes
Originally read: April 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Dom Moraes
Past me wrote this about the line, "Smear out the last star," "Strong opening line that's expansive and has an edge of epicness." Yes, Epicness! No not really. The poem plays on the idea of what it means to be "epic" in a sense. In every epic tale ranging from Odysseus to Ulysses -- the conflict has to come to the forefront; however, this poem deals more of the aftermath of the conflict.
The first stanza hints at where the direction the "post-epic" is going with the line, "The prolonged vowel of silence / makes itself plainly heard" and, see, how the line break turns the noiseless into a noise and is followed through with something plainly heard and then transitions to the visual with "the ghost of a headland." The transition to the silent to the heard regardless of hearing capability is like dredging up an idea.
The dredging up of an idea doesn't follow through with the next lines or the second stanza -- rather the focus is back to the "Absences" and, in the first stanza, the absence makes a sound, so the second stanza works to define the "vowel of silence." "No vigils left to keep. / No enemies left to slaughter." And in this post war silence there's the statement of the obvious, but note how the sentiment changes from an honorary "vigil" to violence of "slaughter" and what is left behind, "Only shelter microliths and fossils. / Unwatched, the rainbows build" Note how the center of focus is what's not there, and even though there's something being built.
The third stanza continues with the focus of nothing, "nobody left to be beautiful. / No polyp admiral to sip / Blood and whiskey from a skull." And even though the last line is a bit outlandish, note that the image pops through the silence, and also note that the speaker by negating the image, the concept of the image comes across strongly -- the idea that there could have been someone like this (as outlandish) post war -- seemingly looking for more.
But that's my mind going away with itself, past me wrote "Every last line so far has to have an overarching general faux philosophical point like The speaker is forcing an epic in peacetime." Oh past me, I think the reverse now. The poet is writing the situation and is forcing peace into epic thought. Remember in stanza two I noted the line, "Unwatched, the rainbows build" and the poem is like that -- that in the silence there's something terrible, but more importantly, there's something good forgotten.
Pay attention to the construction of this sentence, "No sound would be heard if / So much silence was not heard." Past me wrote, "duh" but look at the context. The silence is defined by the lack of dualities of war/peace with war having more of an impact -- the sound is the reality kicking in where "clouds scuff like sheep on the cliff" There's an expanse of nothing.
I wrote this about the last lines, "'World only held together / By its variety of absences.' *silence *empty homes *empty leadership *no beauty World defined by negative." An addendum. World defined in the negative.