Original poem reprinted online here: "cold water" by Robert Lee Brewer
Originally read: September 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Lee Brewer
Descending tercets. I think that's the form of the poem. What does that mean? Well, the form indicates a further separation with each line: whether personal or content.
"we spill ourselves / all over ourselves / our excess light / our forgiving natures." Here's the thing with the first stanza. It's not necessarily finding the meaning behind "spill ourselves" but rather what is spilled, "excess light," and "forgiving natures." Note that the anaphora of "our" not only brings the reader in, but also addresses concrete (light) and metaphor (forgiving natures) as something "we" are spilling -- a shared decadence.
"once we wandered the creek together / forecasted our futures / bright and tightly spun" past me noted that the lines hearkens to the "Romantics" based on the language, but note the instance of "bright and tightly spun" which could reference the "light" in the first stanza and how it "foretasted our futures" -- that's spilling.
"of course we unraveled and marveled / at our unraveling / trying to put a name to it" See, this is the other thing about this poem. Yes, there's a separation but the tone in the first line of stanza three indicates a sense of understanding: not remorse in the separation but a sense of marvel. Also note the repetition of "unravel" opens up the poem content and train of though, but not necessarily meaning which is then addressed in the last line of stanza three, "trying to put a name to it" name's aren't necessary when we know we are unraveling.
"when we failed we created a myth / passed it to our children / who reached out eager to see". Yes, the line, physically, creates descendants, but note that the language is much more harsh and exact, "fail," "myth," "children," "eager". The exactness brings an emotional draw because, we, as readers who were drug along in this poem, can understand the connotations of each word.
And with each word understood, the emotional impact culminates with, "as they departed to who knows what / we ached for the creek and tour futures / running across the wet stones" I haven't noted the lack of punctuation and the reliance of the reader and the line breaks to follow the poem. Here is where the poem saves a sense of sentimentality. The children depart and the reaction, "who knows what / we ached" Syntactically, the line doesn't go towards the children departing or the creek. Rather, due to the lack of punctuation, the emotional reaction could be a separate one, or both, or singular. By blurring what to emote, the poem instead redefines "ache" rather than puts meaning behind it.
Then the image of the "future" (perhaps light) over "wet stones" is developed, "smooth and round but when we found / the water again we bent at the bank / all of us afraid to enter." The ending has a sense of the quizzical if the focus is the emotion "afraid" -- it's a strong emotional point, but, to me, the action refers back to the beginning of the poem in which "we spill" and we will either gain something by reentering the water or we will stop spilling -- dependent on perspective.