Original poem reprinted online here: "Conversation" by Ai Ogawa
Originally read: June 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ai Ogawa
"and you realize how that image / is simply the extension of another image." Past me circled these lines and wrote "core." These lines occur in the middle of the poem, and the question being why announce your technique in the middle of a poem? Well, if the subject matter is too strong, too much for a reader, the little respite brings reflection.
The poem opens up with present day action, "We smile at each other / and I lean back against the wicker couch, / How does it feel to be dead? I say" The scene starts off innocuous, but then start of the conversation brings another question of "who is dead."
But instead of who, it's more about the action of the dead:
You touch my knees with your blue fingers
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Past me noted how surreal the images are. But note how the more surreal the images become, the sexual implications with, "You touch my knees with your blue fingers" become less apparent.
But the sexual implication doesn't appear, but is heard in the next lines, "Don't tell me, I say, I don't want to her, Did you ever, you start. It's as though the speaker is trying not to remember this scene of the dead, but the audio turns to visual when there's mention of the dress in which the "you" figure, "so inconsequential you barely notice it. / your fingers graze that dress." Note how the the dress is it's own entity in the poem and not necessarily what the speaker wore -- but also note the implications that the dress and the speaker could be connected. What's important here is the haze between what could be.
Then after this, the lines I mentioned in the beginning are here, "and you realize how that image / is simply the extension of another image." Now since the dress is ambiguous -- or at least sets up an ambiguity -- I contend that the "you" here shifts as well. I know this isn't supported (as much of my analysis) but I could see that the speaker is referring to "you" as in the other (the dead in her memory) and herself (the one who distances herself from the memory). And here the speaker is trying to refocus so that, "your own life / is a chain of words / that one day will snap." Note the tone change back to the speaker and not the image -- there's more rhetoric here with the indication to "snap"
"Words, you say, young girls in a circle holding hand," past me wrote, "reverting the image back to the words. Furthermore, the images create a distance through representation and the image themselves, "rise heavenward," "like white helium balloons," "where I'm floating." Distance created in an upward momentum. And the speaker plays with the idea of going upward.
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible
Could anyone alive survive it?
The further the escape, the harder the memory hits when it returns. The speaker demonstrated that in the beginning of the poem. Why the proof before the question? Impact. The question here has the greater impact than the scene. It's not if anyone can survive the memory, it's is anyone could survive a futile upward escape.