Monday, November 3, 2014

Analysis of "Atmosphere" by Maxine Chernoff

Poem found here: "Atmosphere" by Maxine Chernoff


The existential crisis brought on by the surroundings or what is there to think about trapped because of the atmosphere?

"Rain pummels windows, words unshake trees"  Note the shift between image and metaphor and how the combine together without an conjunction, they just exist together.  But, for me, the metaphor has the greater impact in the line because I'm curious what "words" the speaker is referring to.  "I have not looked outside all-night."  In any case these words aren't visual, something maybe more auditory or conjured in the mind.

"As if distance were merely a loose wire."  Loose wire to what?  I think the idea here is how someone deals with a loose wire -- a reconnect from distance.  "We are talking, nowhere but here / and here, my love."  Something tells me to take the idea of talking as connecting with a grain of salt due to the previous line which makes the line of "my love" twinge a bit with sadness.

"I do not doubt your existence--any more than I can walk on he ocean / floor (nonchalantly as a ghost)."  This line reminds me most of "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock"  "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."  But the most important part of the line is how the parenthetical is distancing the speaker from the subject -- not really non-chalantly as a ghost on the page, but in context.

"Shut in winter's house, not epic's dark gray, trees without corollary, a / small flame wavering as shadows burn and waver."  Note the shift between the overall scene of winter which is then compared to the focused singular flame in which the "shadows burn and waver."  This separation of extremes of a cold outside and a "wavering" flame could represent the external and the internal or the self and the other -- in any case the distance goes further and further.

"Something expert closes a gap in curtains."  This line makes sense and doesn't at the same time.  The trajectory of the poem relates to the distance here, but the personal usage of "curtains" and "expert" are suspect.  Then I thought about how an expert is created -- someone or something that has survived the turbulence of the subject -- the speaker has gone through this type of distance before, "I'll repeat, then you: this / gaping vault we'll fill with clocks and days and numbers.  There is only / time."  I feel these lines are self-explanatory as far as the content is concerned.   The proclamation of that there only being time is the speaker's perception.  Or rather the speaker knows that there is only time and that keeps the slightest connection through the distance.

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