Originally read: July 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ron Koertge
In the first quatrain, the style starts out as a narrative, "In the airport bar, I tell my mother not to worry. / No one ever tripped and fell into the San Adreas / Fault." Past me noted, "trying to calm with joke." What the first couple of lines also does is set up a relationship between the son and mother where the roles are sort of reversed. The son is the clam, reassuring one; meanwhile, the mother, "But as she dabs at her dry eyes, I remember / those old movies where the earth does open." The mother is a little flustered, and although the reader can infer the reasons why she's flustered, the speaker uses the moment to explore representation behind the fear in "old movies."
"There's always one blonde entomologist, four / deceitful explorer, and a pilot who's good looking". Initially, I was thinking why the entomologist instead of a geologist? This is logic speaking, not the language of movies. The adjectives move the poem forward into a sort of typecast situation -- "blonde" entomologist, "deceitful" explorer. Stock character for the real star, the good looking pilot who has the longest description, "but not smart enough to take off his leather jacket / in the jungle." The short line feels like a struggle. The line itself starts with a preposition which adds a sort of filler aspect to the line, but I see where this is coming from. In a sense the speaker is struggling to stay in this thought. Too much description takes away from the pilot. Too little description then the pilot is stock like the rest of the characters. Why is it important for the pilot be in-between?
Past me wrote this on the third quatrain, "Pilot and speaker the same? Live near parents?" The quatrain starts out still in the scene of the movie, "Still, he and Dr. Cutie Bug are the only ones / who survive the spectacular quake". The earth opened (theoretically) before at the end of the first quatrain -- but whatever the case -- there's a sense of immediacy and urgency with escaping this quake.
But the second half of the third quatrain is the aftermath of the "movie" in which I infer that the speaker is mostly projecting about his life, "they spent their time making plans to go back / to the Mid-West and live near his parents." I feel that this is one side of the speaker's thoughts.
Meanwhile the other, "while the others wanted to steal the gold and ivory / then movie to Lost Angeles". And this is the other side. Note that the "pilot" or "Dr. Cutie Bug" are not implicated on who is deciding what. Who is who is ambiguous, just as, theoretically, how the speaker is feeling -- one path or the other.
The final lines about "mothers" reaffirms the theory that the movie "pilot" and the "speaker" have, at least, similar qualities, and, at most, the pilot's strife and decision are projections of the speaker, "they would rarely / call their mother and almost never fly home / and when they did for only a few days at a time." The speaker is creating distance -- regardless of either choice. On the narrative level, the situation with the speaker and his mom is not resolved since the poem goes with the "movie" narrative. On the other hand, the poem isn't about the relationship as much as how the speaker views the relationship -- his perspective, trying to understand hers, but ultimately looking at himself.