Original poem reprinted online here: "Drift" by Gregory Lawless
Originally read: August 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gregory Lawless
The distance in the poem is played with here. Part of the "fun" is not only seeing how distant the speaker is with the subject "my father" but also how removed the actual father is as an entity, but more so a archaeological find.
In the desert
they found fossils
of my father
as a young man
The first five lines show a surreal perspective of the father as a young man. "Fossils" is the stand out noun in the piece; however, don't underestimate "they" in the piece. Who are "they" and what is their intentions.
his Converse sneakers
dripping with tar, stacks
of old beer cans
an all of his hair.
The list of items found aren't pleasant images, but they are implied images. The tar on the sneakers could be from tobacco, or it could be from too much decay over time. Beer cans are more of an indicator that the father drinks; however,all of his hair has a comedic quality to me because it could reference the idea of aging and what "they" discover is a past version. Or, on a more visceral, less metaphorical, level, "they" found the identifiable remains that the speaker notes.
From here there's a certain level of disrespect from the "they" side where they took a picture, "the whole dig team / packed into his wrecked / yellow Mustang." And at this point, I feel the poem opens itself up to a broader interpretation based on playing on the idea of reverence of an artifact by outsiders, and, more subtly, insiders -- a lack of respect for the individual as a human, but as an artifact
Now his body
is held together
with a necktie
and a mortgage
This is a "modern" fossil. The past is decorated but not as much respected. The current is not so much decorated, but survives "intact." "his offspring / have scattered / to climates / he cannot survive." Survive being the key word here in these sections because the question of survival comes into play not only for the father, but for the siblings.
The end is where the speaker becomes more prominent, not by introducing the self, but by implication. the father with "his rough voice, / that prehistoric grumble," implies a certain level of distance in which the siblings, "carrying some of us / this way, some / of us that." Note the ambiguous of the direction. And also note that this is the most ambiguous part that of who is separated (how many, to where) shows that the siblings don't matter, it is a) how the father was b) how the father is c) how the father is incapable of surviving and saving.