Original poem reprinted online here: "Tar" by Douglas Kearney
Originally read: June 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Douglas Kearney
When I reread this poem, I noticed something that past me wrote about for the end, "black implication? Too broad, misguided impact." And I wonder why. I think this is the challenge of the poem, how far does can on take a metaphor until the metaphor is an actual representation of the subject.
For example, the opening line that includes the title, "[Tar] by the roadside, rude and odd and who / is it?" The personification of Tar happens right away, but the attributes of "rude and odd" doesn't necessarily humanize the tar, but the idea of humanization happens with, "who is it?"
And at this point, the "Tar" has to be taken as a term for a person. I think this makes sense. Instead of playing with the signifier and signified, or punning around, the poem is more direct, "won't it speak when it know better to? / every wrong word caught in its dumb trap / and how dare it think it is?"
So with the takeaway from metaphorical implications, the lines take on the perspective of someone chastizing, bullying, yelling, angry, at the Tar. The language with the last three lines I quoted are trying to dehumanize the "Tar" into well tar.
But I think this is the illusion that the poem plays with, more of the derogatory term and being that derogatory term. "the hit happen / next, as if saying to dull darkness: hey. / here I am being here and so hey, hey!" Monosyllabic exclamations. Note this is what the speaker is appropriating to the tar. The "dull darkness" is the recipient of the exclamations -- it's kind of a weird role reversal where the speaker is trying to gain attention thereby further pushing away the metaphor, the concept to just that.
"HEY! and still by the roadside, stuck, / presence to absence spattered in" and I think this is where past me started to think there would be a loss of impact or at least a change -- the language here is different. It's too concerned with play with the line, "presence to absence spattered in" it reads as deliberately setting up a metaphorical ending. As where the power of the previous line is the disregard of the metaphors attempt to be personified into something more -- degrading the metaphor back to the object.
And so the last line, "that black ever mess." would have a stronger line if the tone was continuing to build up to this line. However, I do see that "presence to absence spattered in" buffers the impact in order to create a wedge -- like that seed of doubt that makes the reader wonder about the speaker more than what the speaker states.