Thursday, November 20, 2014

Analysis of "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief" by Maxine Kumin

Poem found here: "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief" by Maxine Kumin



An airport as a metaphor for transitioning to the afterlife.  But this poem is a bit tongue in cheek too.  The poem is in two octaves and a quatrain with each stanza going closer and closer and then expanding outward from the speaker.

     Blue landing lights make
     nail holes in the dark.
     A fine snow falls.   We sit
     on the tarmac taking on[...]

So stopping here before the list of things occurs. note how the focus is on the play of dark an light in the beginning and also how the snow appears -- fine, small enough to look at individually in general which foreshadows the way the speaker sees who is going aboard with her:

     the mail, quick freight,
     trays of laboratory mice,
     coffee and Danish for
     the passengers

Note how personal these items appear to others "mail, quick freight", then dispassionate, "trays of laboratory mice" to something for the passengers, coffee and Danish.  What I think the speaker is doing is observing the surroundings as though to be placed in the surroundings -- this is currently what is going on which changes later in the poem.  But now the focus is back on the speaker:

     Wherever we're going
     is Monday morning
     Wherever we're coming from
     is Mother's lap

Note the end rhyme in the first two lines and the repetition of "whenever" which adds a sense of nursery rhyme to the poem.  Note the other half of the phrase also starts with an "M' which brings an extended alliteration.  These techniques seem to ease the speaker -- something consistent when facing something metaphorical:

     On the cloud-pack above, strewn
     as loosely as parsnip
     of celery seeds, he
     the souls of the unborn:

The poem takes a serious turn not only in image, but with the admission of the "souls of the unborn" -- when I stated this poem was tongue in cheek in the beginning -- yes, the items and the techniques were a bit cutsey, but the souls of the unborn brings a sense of gravity and tension to the poem which is then disperses with the repetition of "my children's children's children and their father"  it's not the content, it's the approach.  The list is so vast and so simple that it's confusing -- nothing is direct and pointed, but it is specific to the speaker at the same time.

"We gather speed for the last run / and lift off into the weather."  These lines seems to be cliche with the idea of "the last run" and "lift off into the weather" but I'm fine with the last lines being a bit cliche.  The end seems so dismissive compared to the immediacy.  It's like the speaker is changing emotions mid-poem, mid-flight.

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