Friday, April 13, 2007

First Leaves Again, Part III: “Can’t Be Put Back Together”

Two poems were published in the 1987 First Leaves, “Can’t Be Put Back Together” and “New Suit”. Here’s “Can’t Be Put Back Together”:

Can’t Be Put Back Together

She cracks a smile –
I swear, it breaks upon her face –
a space opens between her lower lip and chin.
At first she doesn’t notice, so happy she is to see me, she says.
Her hand half reaches out to touch
but mine retreats to cover my mouth.
The cracks in her new joy shiver, the fault lines separate,
her smile falls away,
she snatches at the air to catch it.
I step back.
Her hands save only jagged bits.
We stare at the fragments on the carpet –
scattered shards, dust.
Even when she looks up, fixes me with her frightened eyes,
I know I cannot help her:
the smile is gone.


I located the original in Although: another bat book. There are a couple changes I can trace to Emblen suggestions. The original was in the past tense. With Emblen’s class I wrote a lot more in present tense because it’s supposed to be more immediate, more you-are-there. It also felt more artificial; I mean, what you’re reading cannot be happening NOW. And all those esses on the verbs! I prefered the pop of the dee to the hiss of the ess. But I got used to present tense, especially as I found so much contemporary poetry was written that way. Emblen suggested I add “she says” at the tail end of the fourth line. I never quite got what problem that fixed, and I guess I still don’t, otherwise I probably wouldn’t remember that it was his idea.

The original is more horror movie. The published version is stranger, more suggestive. Plus, it makes me laugh.

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