Gulf Coasting

Today I found, on Gulf Coast's journal site, a poem by Zach Savich that begins:

I suppose I should
say something sensible:
poultice of vinegary
light argyled at
a wood-patched
kayak leaned on
a pyre of fencing.

The opening of this poem does not flash with an unusual or arresting image, but with a simple statement: "I suppose I should/ say something sensible." How often has one felt like this while sitting down to scribble out a poem or paragraph?

And how often does what follows in this poem happen, where "poultice of vinegary/ light" is what comes of sensibility? Poultice and vinegar are essentially opposites, figuratively for certain, but as a sensible action in poetry, sensible meaning "chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence," this irony might be what makes the poem start strongly. And it is "poultice of," where after of can come anything. Why not poultice's opposite?

That’s all, plainly. Hard-
pressed balm of clouds
undocked, like ice
cubes out their plastic
tray, while my cornsilk-
fine binding down
breath swarmed round
posts at once smooth
and frayed. Each

The next section begins with a give-in: "That's all, plainly." We have been shown a kayak in the sun–a simple, wood-patched kayak, but it is not said "plainly" at all. Next simple image to be blown away sensibly...clouds. Next, an enigmatic concoction of line-breaks and "cornsilk-fine binding" that makes me question whether or not I enjoy the poem.

breath hard as Epsomic
scarves wrenched out
a conjurer’s throat—where are your doves, Magnifico?
then wound with iron
filings, I watched young
waders in the apple pond.

Notice how the key images of the poem, in this section "waders in the apple pond" are constantly subverted by hyperbolic language. This can either be detrimental or beneficial for a poem. In this poem's case, I believe it oscillates between those two, where I prefer this section to the previous–the language is fresher, better, and outshines the preceding lines. Finally, the poem concludes:

One, painted gold,
launched from another’s
flanks, mica-chest sun-
stropped a moment
above the cardboard reeds,
wind rinse, odd
coordinates, life’s plain
hived sense done in
microtints, beyond me.

With this ending I ask the question, "Where am I?" which I think is the point. We can make the "sensible" interpretation of a speaker near a pond who notices a kayak, the light that hits it, clouds, the emotion of painful longing to join waders in a pond and their resemblance to apples, which are so symbolically rich, and lastly turning the eye onto the self to discover "life's plain/ hived sense" as it stretches beyond him/her.

We could reduce the poem to that, but would that interpretation be sufficient? Of course not. I enjoy working through this poem's subtleties and heavy use of irony, where some sections I find to be great and others not so much. Maybe next post a response to an essay on poetry's use of irony, calling on this poem to aid or defy it?

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