Saturday, September 6, 2014

Analysis of "Body" by James Hoch

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Body" by James Hoch
More Information about the Poet: James Hoch


Written in couplets, the poem is a connection between a son and a father.  Now, this doesn't spoil the poem because the techniques in the poem change and mold the ideas within the poem, mainly, what a father wants to leave a son, but the first six lines of the poem is lead up:

     I hang it here, in the entry,
    so it will be known simply

     unmistakably as fact, the way
     when you were born

     you were merely a body
     umbilic, barely breathing.

So why so long until the context of the poem.  The first two lines of the poem are ambiguous and the "it" could only refer to the body.  So the focus is on the speaker's body and it appears that the poem is a metaphor -- hanging up the body for something.  The introduction of "you" in the second stanza indicates the son being born -- the umbilical cord cementing the scene, but the alliteration afterward of "barely breathing" making the situation ambiguous -- is the son dead the umbilical cord a reminder?  or Is it a reminder to the father about the son as a child -- the umbilical cord being a trigger to the memory.  In any case, from the unknown to the actual rubber bands to the opposite direction.

"I could hold you against / my chest and sleep, not hear"  Again this could be an argument of the dead son since there is a lack of sound, but the enjambed line goes further with, "the sky falling metallic / nor dead friends all night" -- note how the images return to death (even stated straight out).  The falling metallic sky could represent something artificial or inevitable; meanwhile, the mention of the dead friends further reinforce the idea that the son is dead, but again the line continues, "pacing quietly in my room / Son, when you cut it down / you'll have to lift it kindly."  When the speaker addresses the son, there is a phantom sense because the actions are so specific -- cutting something down and lifting kindly.

But, for me, the morbid sense is that time will cut down the umbilical cord, and not the son growing up.  The symbol of the umbilical cords drops as though he returns the memory back to the son -- as though waiting for a future.

"so as not to compromise / the evidence.  And if they ask / about the pills or empties,"  So the speaker here talking further to the son as though the father is the one leaving the son behind.  If they ask.  Who are they?  I think they represent the dead friends that the son is with now.  And the pills and empties are a bit concerning if it refers to suicide -- but for now, they are just empty:

     say I tried to make my body
     pure again -- a fireman swaying

     from a cord smartly tied
     back on itself, nothing more.

The metaphor combines the idea of a cord (umbilical and the speaker's) and tries to force the metaphor into something more -- something pure.  However, the last line at the end is a sense of letting go -- suicidal, memory, whatever.

Nothing more.  Because it's already out there.

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