The three poems for this week were “The Video”, “My Papa’s Waltz”, and “Untitled” and all of them seem to revolve around the theme of family. As the reader delves deeper into the meanings of the poem, they can see the theme of family is more specifically the relationship between parent and child or sibling to sibling.
Fleur Adcock’s “The Video” is about the birth of a younger sibling to a family of three. The first stanza shows the actual birth of the child and the second one is after and when the older sister, Ceri rewatches the birth. The lines “She watched Laura come out, and then,/in reverse, she made her go back in,” (lines 11-12) shows her desire for the life before the baby’s birth. As with any older child, there is jealousy and the longing for 100% of the attention of their parents.
In “My Papa’s Waltz” written by Theodore Roethke, the son has the full attention of his father as they are dancing or rather the father seems to be dragging his son along in a drunken dance. The father is so intoxicated that he is knocking into the kitchen shelf causing the plates to fall, which earns the mother’s disapproving look. The dance seems to hint at a slightly abusive relationship when the father is drunk, “You beat time on my head” (line 12). The form of the poem also indicates a waltz with each line having an iambic trimeter. The three stressed syllables support that the dance is a waltz because there are three beats in a waltz.
The final poem assigned was an untitled poem by Peter Meinke. In addition to being an apology to the speaker’s son, it also gives insight to an abusive relationship. The line, “and impatience your frail confidence forever” (line 10) shows the relationship between father and son was at the least an emotionally abusive one. There is a also a feeling of a physically abusive relationship too because the speaker describes the boy with “vulnerable eyes” (line 3) and “thin wrists” (line 5). In the poem the speaker wants his son’s forgiveness and wants his son to know that he was wrong to hurt him. Because the poem does not have a title, it may mean that the father knows there are no words to take back all of the hurt he has caused his son. This poem seems to be the beginning of the rebuilding of a relationship gone awry.
Last week at Care-A-Van when the group was starting to put away and distribute the extra remaining sandwiches, we were approached by a man who was unable to form words. He communicated with his hands and made grunting noises which we deciphered as he wanted more sandwiches. Usually after people receive their sandwich, drink and snack they leave or stand to the side, but this man continued to try to explain that he wanted more sandwiches. We typically do not hand out more than three sandwiches to each person, but since we were packing up we gave him more. Once he saw our hesitation, he pointed to a building across the street and pointed to himself and to two women (who were not related to him). Through interpretation and asking different yes or no questions we figured out that he the extra sandwiches were for his sick mother who lived in the building with him. He proceeded to put his hand on his forehead and salute and then point to an American flag on his sweatshirt. After another round of questioning we established he wanted us to know that we could trust him because he was a good American. When we were about to leave he gave us all a handshake of appreciation and while we were driving away he waved us goodbye.
In the car back to campus and in my dorm room, I thought about the man and his determination for extra sandwiches for his mother. As well as taking care of himself, he felt he had the responsibility of caring for his mother too. I think anyone in their right mind would feel guilty if they abandoned their parents or siblings in need no matter how bad the relationship is. He could have easily taken his three sandwiches for himself or he could have walked away without an explanation of who it was for. From our efforts to decipher his grunts and hand movements, I can barely imagine how frustrating it is to go through daily life without the ability to form words and how he has to shape relationships through other ways of communication.