Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mark Wunderlich

I have participated in two workshops with Mark Wunderlich at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and it's about time I posted one of his very fine poems. He has two volumes of poetry: The Anchorage and Voluntary Servitude.

Here is one of his poems on poemhunter.com:


The Bruise Of This

The night I woke to find the sheets wet from you,
like a man cast up on the beach,
I hurried you off to the shower to cool you down,

dressed you, the garments strict and awkward in my hands,
and got you into a taxi to the hospital,
the driver eyeing us from his rearview mirror--

The blue tone of the paging bell,
the green smocks, metal beds,
plastic chairs linked

in a childhood diagram of infection,
and when they wheeled you by
there was a needle in your arm,

the bruise of this
already showing itself,
and rather than watch gloved doctors handle you

in their startling white coats and loose ties,
I took a seat outside and waited,
time yawning, thick and static--

and made clear to me in the bright light of speculation
was time's obstacle in the body,
and those things I could do that might cushion it.

Mark Wunderlich


No matter what kind of poetry you like to write--whether you prefer free verse, traditional, postmodern, romantic, or whatever--you can never go wrong using clear, strong, carefully crafted imagery. This poem is a fantastic example. Every stanza brings a new, powerful image to the poem and carries the reader through the experience.

Someone with night sweats this severe is very ill. The speaker attends to this person with careful urgency--perhaps this is not their first trip to the emergency room. Every space these two occupy is painted for us: In the bed, we see someone "cast up on a beach." In the taxi, we see the furtive glances of the driver in the mirror. In the hospital we see "greens smocks," even a "blue" bell. We see the needle and the bruise it has caused. We even see time, "thick and static."

The speaker is made aware, within the frightening arena of an emergency room and the lack of control a patient's relative has, of "time's obstacle in the body." A fascinating way to end the poem, in that it is somewhat cryptic in a poem of such clear imagery and chronology. It has something to do with this illness--perhaps illness is the obstacle to time in the body, i.e. time is inhibited by the illness. The speaker wonders what can be done to "cushion" the obstacle--make it less powerful--thereby giving time a better chance. The "bruise" can be seen as the emotional scar left on the speaker by loving and caring for someone with a dangerous disease. It is very urgent and sad poem, but not without hope.

7 comments:

danny said...

Yes, there is an urgency on both the "imagery of reality" and the "framing device" used in the poem by Mark Wunderlich...And I like the way how you described it as "...very urgent and sad poem, but not without hope."

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Josse said...

A haunting poem. It really captured waking up in the night with someone who is very ill. I wasn't sure about the time reference at the end. I will have to think about it some more.