Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poetry of Witness

"Charlie Howard's Descent"

Mark Doty's "Charlie Howard's Descent" is an emotionally captivating piece, exemplifying the unjust treatment and judgment of things society does not understand. Mark Doty writes about a man who's way of life is misunderstood, and therefore judged harshly by the community he lives in. "we learn to use the name/because they are there,/familiar furniture;faggot/was the bed he slept in, hard" (23-26) suggests reference to a homosexual man; however, there is much more to learn from this poem. I believe Doty is attempting to symbolize the common occurrence of fear of what we do not understand. Fear leads to violence, thus the evoking such situations to take place.  The ending lines "and blesses his killers/in the way that only the dead/can afford to forgive" (52-54) solidified the poem's meaning. Here it is shown that, though misunderstanding and judgmental acts took his life, the victim is able set aside blame, and forgive his attackers. He forgives their fear; a fear of what they cannot understand. 

"Song of Napalm"

Bruce Weigl's "Song of Napalm" represents the trauma and never ending pain that a Vietnam war  veteran must endure to their last day on this earth. The anguish a veteran may feel for his actions in the field is something a civilian cannot empathize with. This poem gives example to how war affects the people of this world, whichever side they may share. Weigl shares descriptive details of his visions, while showing us that in all truth, no side benefits from war. "We stood in the doorway watching horses/walk off lazily across the pasture's hill." (2-3) suggest he is standing next to someone he is comfortable with, in a different place and time than the war he recalls. Weigl writes "Trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches/Crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire/But you said they were only branches." (12-14) Later he writes, "But still the branches are wire/And the thunder is pounding mortar/Still I close my eyes and see the girl" (21-23) These two verses show me his physical body is not where his mind seems to be, like they have separated. One standing next to his love, and the other trapped in a world of screams. pain, suffering and terror. He ends his poem with a statement of truth, though a difficult one to accept. "And not your good love and not the rain-swept air/And not the jungle green/Pasture unfolding before us can deny it." (43-45) To conclude with such a statement shows the unforgettable event that is war.
I chose both poems because each had a significant meaning to me. My mother had a friend when she was young that was bound and thrown off a dock in Florida, with weights tied to his boots. The other because I used to work in a nursing facility for veterans. One of my favorite, and most interesting residents was a medic in the Vietnam war. He spoke many times of the blue bodies from Napalm, and was severely traumatized from it. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. Hopefully that can change...

Works Cited 
Weigl, Bruce. Song of Napalm
Doty, Mark. Charlie Howard's Descent

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1 comment:

  1. Katie,
    I really like your analysis of the two poems. I too pick these two because of the effect they had on me after reading them. I thought your analysis was very well thought out and went deeper then what we would first think each poem. I too beleive that Bruce Weigl was trying to make the statement that war is unforgettable and that unless you were in one you can't even begin to imagine what went on over there. Keep up the good work.