Sunday, March 1, 2015

Analysis of "Peddler" by Sandra McPherson

Poem found here: "Peddler" by Sandra McPherson

The construction of the poem, quatrains with maybe couplet or alternating rhyme scheme, adds to this sense of lack of commitment the speaker has, maybe not has, but is the definite topic on the mind.  There are there actors in this poem, the peddler, the speaker, and this ubiquitous "other" which appears at the beginning and at the end of the poem.  As the peddler disappears to metaphor, and the speaker dredges more into the self -- it is the "we" or "the other" that caught me off guard with this poem.

So the first three stanzas follow a similar structure as far as content is concerned -- peddler description then self.  For example:

     The man vending needles at our door   [DJD1] 
     He looked poor but you acted needle-poor  
     Where I’d have said, I don’t need ...[DJD3] 

 [DJD1]Has an ominous appearance

 [DJD2]Diffused in the next line but, still the idea of “needles” have a different connotation to me.

 [DJD3]A point?  The trail off line questions more of the speaker.

The description is of a peddler selling needles door to door; and, to me, it's more of a drug related aspect which 70% is shifted with "was lucky to greet you."  The allusion for me is still there, personally, but the poem goes forward with the difference in reaction -- a firm empathetic response from the other; meanwhile, a trailing thought from the speaker.\

The next line, "He sells needles to prick your heart" turns the peddler and the needles into a metaphorical figure in which the speaker could bring the emotion, "Where my feelings are thin" to the forefront.  The speaker is looking deeper into the situation and is dredging up what this peddler and needles bring up for her -- this kind of uncommitted, fearful person.

Note, that the next stanza does demonstrate this:

     The old thread knitting together his many wools  
     Might last another trudge
     To our porch: he came last year but I
     Refused and barely looked him in the eye.

As the peddler utilizes the needles to create something which the purpose of his creation is expanded upon, "wools / Might last another trudge."  The speaker is reminiscing about a singular moment -- like a singular emotion with, "he came last year but I /Refused and barely looked him in the eye."  Now, remember the beginning of the poem where the speaker trailed off with a flat out refusal.  These lines foretell a shift in thought, at least for the speaker.

"I've lost how many needles since then?" Is a reminiscent rhetorical question directed at the speaker, but the next line brings this sentiment together with, "Besides he is mute" -- the peddler cannot answer her rhetorical question -- nor could the peddler represent more that just someone who sells needles, "And would see how dumb we are to buy / Three hundred needles for relief."

"But he supplied us to the end of life"  Note this doesn't say whose life or what life means -- in the context of the poem -- life could mean the literal life or some kind of metaphorical life.  And, to me, the metaphorical life of the couple comes into question with the next three lines, "I'll give away some, / And you might never use these points / That push through cloth, cut to be made one."  The most telling line is "cut to be made one" which could refer to the couple -- but, just like the poem, the speaker is unable to construct a consistent and committed structure, rhyme scheme, metaphor that dies, and a theoretically relationship that turned or always was theoretical. 

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