Two poems

… from the 1/1 New York Times Magazine: one this week’s poem selected by Matthew Zapruder, “Why I Am Like New Zealand” by James Galvin; the other a piece of found poetry on the very next page, in the first sentence of the article “Not Breathing” by Ryan Bradley (about free-diving).

The Galvin:

My feet stick out from beneath the sheet,
Pointing to where death thrives.
I am right side up.
I wake between tectonic plates that hurt.
I have five faults, called senses.
My brow is furrowed into alps.
My best volcano thinks
It’s high geologic time
To euthanize the sky.
Excuse me while I euthanize the sky.
My fjords ache.
My glaciers hurry.
My spine is a train wreck in a tunnel.
No one survives.
There is a bridge to nowhere, and it’s mine.
I count on being left alone.
I love the Abel Tasman Sea.
I can’t remember my discovery.

(Illustration by R.O. Blechman.)

Zapruder on the poem:

The comparison expressed by the poem’s title at first seems lighthearted but quickly reveals physical and psychological pain: Death thrives, tectonic plates hurt. Is this a poem about aging? The end of a love affair? The environment? Maybe all three. The dark thinking of the poem continues until the surprising swerve in the last two lines, which leaves us in what W.H. Auden called “the clear expression of mixed feelings.”

About the poet:

James Galvin teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is the author of several volumes of poetry, including “Everything We Always Knew Was True,” published in August by Copper Canyon Press.

Note: before the swerve in the last two lines, right in the middle of the poem, there’s a double allusion, first to the Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze” line

Excuse/’Scuse me while I kiss the sky

(famously mondegreened as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” — see here); and then to T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, which begins:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table

All this in:

To euthanize the sky.
Excuse me while I euthanize the sky.

with its shocking intrusion of the mortal verb euthanize. Twice. (But note the early eppearance of death, in line 2.)

The Bradley line, arranged into a quatrain:

I went snorkeling
With my sister
And she startled
A sea lion.

The tale of a brief encounter — sudden — all the lines starting on upbeats and then culminating in a strong downbeat on an /s/-initial syllable.

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