Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Southern Crescent

Several things stand out in the second stanza, so I'll quote it in full:

Ahead of her, days of travel, one town
after the next, and California--a word
she can't stop repeating. Over and over
she will practice meeting her father, imagine
how he must look, how different now
from the one photo she has of him. She will
look at it once more, pulling into the station
at Los Angeles, and then again and again
on the platform, no one like him in sight.

I like the break after "a word", because of the way it layers the meaning. The sentence conveys the character's excitement and anticipation, but the line break lets us know that her expectations will be disappointed.

However, the next sentence crumples under its own redundancy and vagueness. Consider an alternative:

. . . . Over and over
she will imagine meeting her father:
how different he looks from the photo,
or how similar; rushing to him
to be held, or waiting shyly for him
to notice her.

In the original, "imagine how he must look" only repeats information from the other clauses in the sentence. Plus, we aren't given any of her actual fantasies, which could provide a lot of characterization and emotional setting.

And lastly, having the character look at the photo again and again on the platform successfully shows her being stood up. Announcing it again right afterward shows that the author either doesn't trust herself or the reader, and both failures are just different ways of answering why this poem wastes its readers' time

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