Thursday, November 5, 2015

Analysis of "Singlehanded" by Matt Salyer

Poem Found Here: "Singlehanded" by Matt Salyer

So I'm going to approach this a bit differently -- more reader response than new criticism.  So the first line, "Black apertures in a field of ghost," sets up a dark and creepy atmosphere and ambiance.  Not so much with the term, "field of ghost" but with black apertures which, "they come to me when the winter will be / their last." The noun is specific but the scene is so broad.  Also who is the speaker?  Why do these figures go to him?    What makes this poem wonderfully creepy is the language -- so specific, but so vague.  There's a play of suspension -- wanting to know more.

But the poem reads as though we're too late, "When we collapse, we collapse by the common law / of us."  What is this common law of us?  It's how the speaker is connected to this aperture.  Well the following images of separating the speaker from body parts kind of leads me to this direction

     [...]I do not peel the foil of cold from our stupor.
     I forgot the lame hocks, fine as you'd guess,
     and my jaw shovels a hum from the animal lung
     I face.

But note how the language is so tightly focused on individual parts and ideas -- peeling the foil, hocks, jaws shovels a hum from the animal lung.  So odd and intimate, but at the same time so creepy.

But the next line begets the intimacy with a sense of wrath, "If it were so easy to throw a horse down, / you would all do it; you would hold / their tantrums with a strap."  The semi-colon makes this line.  The action seems clarifies the situation -- the speaker taking care of a dying horse.  But it's not so simple as that.  It's how the speaker views the situation.  There's a sense of empowerment over death.  From the intimacy that the speaker has to the "you" unable to calm horses like the speaker.  It's a bit unnerving the point of view has and the authority he has.  It's because of the language -- the approach.
Starting all the way from the beginning the ambiance is continued through the language so even this line, "No one can tell how bold and lonesome / sies choose their falls or me,"could be taken as a line about how well this person does at his actions, but there's a false sense of comparison -- them or me.  This feels like there's something more than the situation which I don't know the answer to but I don't have to.

The lackadaisical end is the creepiest I've read in a long time.  It's the language:

     but I throw horses.
     What a burden, what a beast
     I've been.

Yes, I'll repeat myself and say it's the language -- the play on the idiom of beast of burden so the speaker gains those attributes.  But it's the short line of "I've been" which has the most power.  The self-awareness of actions and then putting a throwaway meaning behind them for the reader acknowledges the reader but, for the speaker, it seems like the horses, the intimacy, the anger -- is all just a game.

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