they are whispering to me,
imploring me to return, taunting
me because I can’t.
Start with the first line. We have 'they' which might be referring to the rock, stone and/or silt; however, for this metaphor to work, there must be a subject driving these objects onwards, such as water or wind, to create a rationalization of a rock 'whispering'. Wind might seem more likely, because of the exploration of whether 'rock' is being employed as a noun or a verb. However, the beauty of poetry is that the verb and the noun can both be present, really. We interpret as we read, constantly, and in our interpretations, we are bound to discover things we didn't know. Things perhaps we didn't even want to know. Does this not happen in life, too?
This they is ‘imploring’ and ‘taunting’. The imploration is to return. Naturally the reader will ask: return where? Again the poem and the narrator are aware of more than the reader. In poetry, fiction, films, there might be a big reveal towards the end. Is the poem following suit? The final part of this stanza is the crucial part. There has been a climb of speed, of tension and emotion. Whispering. Consider the many times you’ve heard a whisper. The thin, eerie whisper of the wind through a barely lit alleyway; the frail, gravelly whisper of an old, dying person; what about, say, temptation. The deep, lustful whisper of a calling lover. What happens when they try to become a little more persuasive? While whispering, they are imploring. The narrator is being called to return. Yet, whether or not the narrator desires to return, he, she or it declares I can’t. A heavy ask, admitting incapability. With it, the threat of humiliation. Can’t. Not won’t, for that is different; it implies that the capability to act might exist, but is refrained from nevertheless. Can’t. That’s the word we, all of us, don’t want to know about. A society-wide taboo. Sensitive beings, humans. Easily embarrassed, more easily upset. Agreed? In your mind, answer these questions. Have you ever been given a job by a parent, teacher, employer, and not known quite what to do? Have you been given instructions and, following them, accidentally got a part wrong? Forgotten to complete something in the right order, broken a piece of the puzzle? Have you then had to tell your parent, teacher, employer, that you have messed up? The guilt bubbling inside you, desperate to break out? Your stomach knotting for fear of the consequences, despite the consequences themselves being unknown? Falling short of expectation is frequently perceived to be failure, and many people fear failure.
However. Getting something wholly wrong is one thing…what about pure incapability? Can’t. It reverberates back through the stanza. Whoever and whatever are imploring the narrator to return, and to wherever…these things barely matter, for it cannot be achieved regardless.
Thus, the humiliation; the taunting.
Left more to my thoughts now,
invaded by the slaughtering juggernauts:
Anger and Jealousy, they feed their
In this first line alone, the curtain is sliced back a little more than it has been so far. Solitude and cognizance have slipped through the elliptical net, and the stanza has a feeling of thought and coherency. The narrator reveals they are left to their thoughts. However, these thoughts remain secreted from the reader. The second line, beginning with invaded, reinforces the refulgence and importance of the word ‘thoughts’ in this stanza. Ever been overwhelmed by your own thoughts? Why? The words invaded, slaughtering, juggernauts are not necessarily words that can be found in everyday jargon if one goes to the shop or passes a neighbour in the street (unless, of course, you live somewhere subjugated by juggernauts). They are powerful, aggressive words, yet they have a feel of sophistication, nonetheless. When something is outside of ubiquitous use, it is more jarring. All three words are packed into the same line; striking outwards. Longer than the previous lines of the poem, ending with juggernauts. The line itself is a juggernaut. Pervasive and unwanted in its presence on the page.
Imagine a scenario where this poem is read aloud, and the audience have no written copy in sight. The slaughtering juggernauts, Anger and Jealousy, feed—
The poem reads ‘their’. However, orally and acoustically, one might hear the word ‘there’. And without the enjambment, it would suggest that the metaphor goes on a different track, with Anger and Jealousy feeding on the narrator’s thoughts. The thoughts becoming so vast and tangled that they are both a landscape and a carcase to be devoured. Consider. That every thought one might have, is fed on by two ugly emotions. Two emotions bound up in corruption and darkness. The corruption of the soul. To be jealous can often mean to be angry. What provokes jealousy? The absence of ownership of something which somebody else has? What has happened to the narrator? That, there, is the big question.
vigour through my absences, as I
shuffle on this swaying beech,
infected with rot and decay.
The narrator is in a place of solitude, and the solitude is symbolized by the secrecy of the thoughts, yet the reader is invited there, increment by increment, via the small revelations (shuffling, swaying beech, rot and decay). We are shown that it is a pernicious solitude. A festering solitude that the narrator, suggested by the "feed"-ing of Anger and Jealousy, is succumbing to.
There are absences. Absences which feed the vigour of Anger and Jealousy. What absences are these? Still the questions pile up, unanswered. And more questions. The narrator shuffles; does this diminish the chance of the narrator being human? Why would a human being shuffle? It is an animation we wouldn’t normally associate with human legs. An animal, perhaps? An inanimate object?
Beech, the type of wood, rather than a beach, sways. The beach is not mentioned yet ever persists, described through the waves and the rock and the silts. What then, is this swaying beech, infected with rot and decay?
Next part: next week.