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Peter Analysis



Author: poem of Marianne Moore Type: poem Views: 14

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Strong and slippery,

built for the midnight grass-party

confronted by four cats, he sleeps his time away--

the detached first claw on the foreleg corresponding

to the thumb, retracted to its tip; the small tuft of fronds

or katydid-legs above each eye numbering all units

in each group; the shadbones regularly set about the mouth

to droop or rise in unison like porcupine-quills.

He lets himself be flattened out by gravity,

as seaweed is tamed and weakened by the sun,

compelled when extended, to lie stationary.

Sleep is the result of his delusion that one must do as well

     as one can for oneself,

sleep--epitome of what is to him the end of life.

Demonstrate on him how the lady placed a forked stick

on the innocuous neck-sides of the dangerous southern snake.

One need not try to stir him up; his prune-shaped head

and alligator-eyes are not party to the joke.

Lifted and handled, he may be dangled like an eel

or set up on the forearm like a mouse;

his eyes bisected by pupils of a pin's width,

are flickeringly exhibited, then covered up.

May be?  I should have said might have been;

when he has been got the better of in a dream--

as in a fight with nature or with cats, we all know it.

Profound sleep is not with him a fixed illusion.

Springing about with froglike accuracy, with jerky cries

when taken in hand, he is himself again;

to sit caged by the rungs of a domestic chair

would be unprofitable--human.  What is the good of hypocrisy?

it is permissible to choose one's employment,

to abandon the nail, or roly-poly,

when it shows signs of being no longer a pleasure,

to score the nearby magazine with a double line of strokes.

He can talk but insolently says nothing.  What of it?

When one is frank, one's very presence is a compliment.

It is clear that he can see the virtue of naturalness,

that he does not regard the published fact as a surrender.

As for the disposition invariably to affront,

an animal with claws should have an opportunity to use them.

The eel-like extension of trunk into tail is not an accident.

To leap, to lengthen out, divide the air, to purloin, to pursue.

To tell the hen: fly over the fence, go in the wrong way

in your perturbation--this is life;

to do less would be nothing but dishonesty.





Submitted by zenfishsticks






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