Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Analysis of "As You Never Bothered to Return My Call" by August Kleinzahler

Original poem reprinted online here: "As You Never Bothered to Return My Call" by August Kleinzahler
Originally read: September 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: August Kleinzahler

Lament.  From the very beginning the speaker plays with lament and, more specifically, sentimentality.

With the first few lines there's a juxtaposition of wants, "What I had wanted was to be chaste, / sober and uncomfortable" it's not like the last part of "uncomfortable" undercuts the desire to be chaste and sober, but there isn't a "linear" progression.  For example, wanting to be uncomfortable isn't a usual want and neither is, "for a sprawling episode on a beach somewhere / dirty, perennially out of fashion;" Note the semi-colon which connects this sort of linearity with this idea, "some kid gave up on only half-way through / and left to go warm in the sand."  Lament, staying in one place.  The "kid" leaving to someplace warm could be a strong symbolic meaning of the opposite of what the speaker is doing.

But then there's a shift of scenery, but not necessarily "warm" scenery:

      The train ride would be long and hot,
      and you, you've had it with men
      Me . . .
              I'm sickened by the pronoun

Note how the break still transitions tactile from warm to hot, but also note that juxtaposition and the sense of irony with the last three lines.  "You" is a pronoun and specifically hates men. So when the speaker declares, "I'm sickened by the pronoun" who is the speaker referring to? You, men, or "me"?  All of the above.  Note how the poem at this point is the most general, but has the most direction, versus the first stanza which was specific but stayed still.

"Tenderness seems as far away as Sioux City / and besides, it would have cost too much. / But you should have called."  Here is the line.  The sentiment starts to appear with "tenderness" and although there's a realization which places, I wouldn't say blame, but importance, "But you should have called" -- now, refer back to the first stanza in which it states, "What I had wanted".  There's a possibility that without this call, the speaker couldn't live the life wanted.

Now the speaker presses the sentimentality issue with being more in the dream ideal, "If only since a preposterous little episode like this / is just the stuff to scare off extra friends,"  Not the displacement (or attempt to) of emotions.  The speaker demeans the last stanza as preposterous and little in which scares off extra friends -- it's as though, at this moment, the speaker is able to let go.  Until, "And us. . ."

"And us. . ." it's the going back to us,and the ellipses which brings the speaker back to the memory and back to lamenting, "What an impertinence, us."  The speaker tries to separate the sentiment with somewhat out there ideas:

     We could have played gin rummy and taken a stroll
     into town or along the boardwalk, maybe
                                    with dear old Godzilla,
     the first one, the best one, the 1954 one,
     reprising his role this one last time, raising himself up
     over the horizon at dusk,

The mention of Godzilla, walking around the boardwalk, and playing gin rummy all seem distant as far as action, but note that the "reprising his role this one last time, raising himself up" has multiple implications.  How?  Maybe the ghost of the other is reprising the same big role.  Or how about the speaker is lamenting "the first one, the best one" -- the lines have multiple meanings that can lead to sentimentality, but I think the out there ideas save it.

Up until this point, "and hurrying us to a place we never would have / dreamt of / going" the reference back to the "us" brings the poem back to that line of sentiment.  Yes, the lines somewhat closes and somewhat the door of the relationship.  But is that necessary?  I think I liked the ambiguous descriptors and how they operated more than the end.  I wonder if Godzilla gets cold in the ocean.

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