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Governors On Sominex Analysis

Author: poem of David Berman Type: poem Views: 13

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It had been four days of no weather

as if nature had conceded its genius to the indoors.

They'd closed down the Bureau of Sad Endings

and my wife sat on the couch and read the paper out loud.

The evening edition carried the magic death of a child

backlit by a construction site sunrise on its front page.

I kept my back to her and fingered the items on the mantle.

Souvenirs only reminded you of buying them.

* * *

The moon hung solid over the boarded-up Hobby Shop.

P.K. was in the precinct house, using his one phone call

to dedicate a song to Tammy, for she was the light

by which he traveled into this and that

And out in the city, out in the wide readership,

his younger brother was kicking an ice bucket

in the woods behind the Marriott,

his younger brother who was missing that part of the brain

that allows you to make out with your pillow.

Poor kid.

It was the light in things that made them last.

* * *

Tammy called her caseworker from a closed gas station

to relay ideas unaligned with the world we loved.

The tall grass bent in the wind like tachometer needles

and he told her to hang in there, slowly repeating

the number of the Job Info Line.

She hung up and glared at the Killbuck Sweet Shoppe.

The words that had been running through her head,

"employees must wash hands before returning to work,"

kept repeating and the sky looked dead.

* * *

Hedges formed the long limousine a Tampa sky could die behind.

A sailor stood on the wharf with a clipper ship

reflected on the skin of the bell pepper he held.

He'd had mouthwash at the inn and could still feel

the ice blue carbon pinwheels spinning in his mouth.

There were no new ways to understand the world,

only new days to set our understandings against.

Through the lanes came virgins in tennis shoes,

their hair shining like videotape,

singing us into a kind of sleep we hadn't tried yet.

Each page was a new chance to understand the last.

And somehow the sea was always there to make you feel stupid.

Submitted by sallack


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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The imagery here is of decaying or faltering social infrastructure, as though the human energies behind the complex machineries of social reality have drowsed to sleep from a dose of Sominex. Thus, they have closed down the Bureau of Sad Endings, the organ of government responsible for rationalizing tragedy and also dictating the boundaries of taste. There is something disturbing and inappropriate about a child's death being "magic," juxtaposed with images of new beginning [construction site and sunrise, perhaps a sarcastic nod to Reagan's "Morning in x literal meaning of "governors" quickly takes on a more metaphorical sense of the individual as x the journalists editing the paper, nor the narrator and his wife for that matter, seem moved or disturbed by the tragedy, she reading aloud as though practicing a part in a play, and he absent-mindedly fingering nondescript "items" on the mantle. Both seem listless and detached, he not even feeling the usually wistful pleasures of nostalgia, only able to remember the act of buying the souvenirs, not the places, people, or events they're supposed to x this increasingly dystopian universe, DIY and imagination are bygone fads. The Hobby Shop is boarded up, presumably for lack of customers, and the kid brother is unable to banish his solitude even temporarily by pretending his pillow is some object of affection. The helpless P.K. uses his one phone call [following arrest] not to call a lawyer, nor even to call Tammy, his lover, but to request a song in dedication to her -- she the "light by which he traveled into this and that," paradoxically suggesting both halfheartedness in his passion for her and dependency on her for x meanwhile, seems in no better shape than P.K. Clearly upset, conveying "ideas unaligned with the world we loved" [possibly bitter over losing her job in the Sweet Shoppe], she gets little comfort from the cynical caseworker, who rather than offering comfort and support merely passes the buck to another "governor" agency, the Job Info Line. Neither Tammy nor the caseworker seem especially inclined to show understanding or interest in improving the x imagery of the clipper ship reflected on the bell pepper's skin, the limousine as metaphor for the hedge are admittedly cryptic, and the virgins with "hair shining like videotape" are admittedly cryptic, but perhaps explained by the more literal sentence they're juxtaposed with: "There were no new ways to understand the world, / only new days to set our understandings against." In the mind of the narrator, each of the three images -- plants and human beings -- must be perceived with respect to the man-made, non-living objects. This is the curse of the postmodern perspective -- there will never be new signifiers, only infinitely many new subjectivities built on changing the contexts of and associations with the old x so, Berman manages to end on a note of hope and x page was a new chance to understand the last." In a world where the old literary modernist joy of finding infinitely many meanings within a single page of text feels increasingly restricted by awareness of our own individual histories and contexts [as well as those of the author], Berman takes comfort in that while the meaning in the pages to follow may be similarly restricted, they promise to enrich and expand on the context of the page that came before, perhaps opening unexpected doors unforseen by the gloomy, unimaginative, listless world the characters of "Governors on Sominex" seem to x poem of Berman's, "From His Bed In The Capital City," is also putatively about a sleeping government official, but ironically has the bureaucrat shaping and guiding civic architecture through his dreams, successfully maintaining order and safety for his constituency.

| Posted on 2010-01-27 | by a guest

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