Wednesday, April 24, 2013

BPR LIT TRIP 24 with Charles Harper Webb

At first glance, the Steiny Road Poet thought “Rain-Out" by Charles Harper Webb was a pretty straight forward free-verse poem and that today’s 24th trip through the Birmingham Poetry Review volume 40 would be, well … easy. Here’s how this poem organized in five unrhymed five-line stanzas with no particular metric count opens:

What we’ve looked forward to will not
occur. What we’ve slaved toward
has been delayed permanently. Useless:
the laps we’ve run, the calisthenics
we’ve endured, the crates of hissing snakes

Everything seems logical given the title until that last line, hissing snakes? Well, in stanza 2, the collective we shoves these snakes down icey roads, breathing on them so they won’t hibernate. Then whoever is the opponent—these are those spiteful folks who prayed for a cloudburst—because their “line-ups weren’t/ prepared, notch their noses and wear pink// jock straps to thank their evil gods.” Meanwhile the prayers from the good guys go unheard and the rain starts—“The pock and thwap of fat drops plopping// into puddles and rattling rain gutters/ drape black crepe inside our hearts.” Good going on that onomatopoeia—the Steiny Poet can feel and hear those raindrops!

The question is what kind of event is getting rained out? The Steiny Poet conferred with her former horseman husband to see if this event might be a rodeo and he quipped, why do you think this poem has to be logical? Judge for yourselves, Dear Reader:

… Where placid herds trod concrete
corridors, content to be imminent

steaks and brisket plates, they swim now,
mooing mournfully, while cowboys
on their roans, piebalds, and Appaloosas
slosh and founder toward the sunset
that smashes us in muddy, hopeless waves.

Well, maybe this is roundup, where the cowboys are driving cattle to market? But how does one account for those men in pink jock straps and those hissing snakes that get pushed down icey roads? Maybe Charles Harper Webb is poetry’s Salvador Dali.

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