Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I may be wrong, but the exact path this fox takes seems, at least to me, of little consequence.
I saw the fox running by the side of the road
past the turned-away brick faces of the condominiums
past the Citco gas station with its line of cars and trucks
and he ran, limping, gaunt, matted dull haired
past Jim's Pizza, past the Wash-O-Mat,
past the Thai Garden, his sides heaving like bellows. . .
Now a real English teacher could make something out of that list--ticky-tacky condos, the Wash-O-Mat, Jim's Pizza, the Citgo station, patrons lined up as if there were a gas crisis. Maybe there's something more there than a plain old landscape, a montage of businesses that line the block; but I was never a particularly adept symbol hunter. I prefer to think that Patricia Fargnoli, who wrote the poem, is just listing the businesses she sees down the street, or what she saw the day that lair-less, mangy fox got caught far from home.
and he kept running to where the interstate
crossed the state road and he reached it and he ran on
under the underpass and past the perfect
rows of split-levels, their identical driveways
their brookless and forestless yards,. . .
The big deal is, he's not home, nor is he close to finding it. Poor ill-begotten thing is loose on the town or burb, probably terrorized by a world that is not his own.
And she seems him, the poet that is, as most of us would, a fox out on the lam, a mangy, creepy beast--think rabid, who knows?--and terrified.
. . .and from my moving car, I watched him,
helpless to do anything to help him, certain he was beyond
any aid, any desire to save him, and he ran loping on,
far out of his element, sick, panting, starving. . .
See? Doesn't matter where he's running, just anywhere that isn't his home, that doesn't offer the safety of the woods, the darkness of some beloved den. And there's nothing she can do, the poor, pitiable beast, in grave danger.
And then this:
. . .his eyes fixed on some point ahead of him,
some possible salvation
in all this hopelessness, that only he could see.
End of poem.
Wow. I didn't see that coming. Maybe I should have; after all, the title is almost cruel: "The Undeniable Pressure of Existence." I should have guessed it was going to be a poem about faith.
The poem is clearly the rambling of an atheist. We're all as displaced as that woebegone fox, under the delusion of "some possible salvation," of which, sad to say, "only he could see" because, quite frankly, faith is a damned mirage.
Well, maybe I'm going too far. Maybe the poem is the rambling of someone who simply doubts. After all, that sad, mongrel fox really comes off as the lucky one. He sees "some possible salvation" at least. The poet sure doesn't. Maybe she wishes she could--have faith, that is.
Maybe Fargnoli studies brain chemistry, and that "possible salvation" the fox holds on to so desperately is nothing more than a chemical equation that triggers the will to survive, something akin to instinct. We're hard-wired to believe, and sometimes it can really be a blessing.
Or how about this, the poem is the ranting of some cold-hearted Calvinist. Some of us, haggard as we are, are simply lucky. We've been chosen, after all, which means that in all this hopelessness, our redeemed eyes are "fixed on some point ahead of us." Not all of us. Just some, thank the Lord.
Choose your weapon. Poetry is not rocket science, and ambiguity is, ironically, as great a blessing as it a curse, you might say.
What I know for sure in the story this poem tells (and that probably isn't a fable) is that sometimes--not always but sometimes--I feel a whole lot like that beat-up fox. Don't you?
But then, I've sometimes felt as hopeless as that helpless driver too.
Fine poems tell us this much at least: they let us know who we are.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:36 AM