DELIVERY by Franz Wright

                                                                                                
 DELIVERY                                                            
                                                                 
                                                                 
Three loud successive knocks, and not the kind of knocks you ignore. Knocks that know perfectly well you are there. See? You’ve already fallen from bed, almost before the third sounds, are dragging yourself down each memorized step of the stairway, disheveled, half-dressed as you are, filled with the fear of what might occur if you are too slow, too late. Mute, barely breathing, you stand in the darkness and wait there at the door. Wait still as stone or tree. Do you know how long a minute is? As stone or windless tree, you listen, hard, to left and right until you’re sure no one is out there. Finally, gradually you unlock door and open it wide to the infinite night. You then take two determined dreadful steps and bang right into a crate half your height, immediately setting off a feeble thumping sound you take be that of the creature’s tail as it tries with all its might to send a friendly signal. Suddenly you’re not so sure you want this particular dog, it reeks from here, or there, of old age, mange and cataracts. So having lived this long, too long in your opinion, you found yourself in need of one more dog, and you got what you ordered. Except clearly you will also get to be its solitary, sightless mourner. You are finished with these dogs, these selfless and hardworking beings no one will remember, any more than they’re going to remember that they themselves lived.

for John Wronoski

___________
Franz Wright

                                                                     

                                                                   
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                                                                            Review by Chris Crawford 

The poem is presented in prose poem form — inexorable, formidable. The poem is one stanza long but in two “halves” and by structuring the poem in halves, Wright seems to be asking the reader to make connections between the symbolic description of the surroundings and situation and the psychology of the speaker.

The poem opens ominously with three knocks which cannot be ignored. In addition to pointing the poem directly at the reader with his generalized “you”, the use of ‘you’ and not ‘I’ allows the poet to stand outside himself, to employ a wide-angle view on the situation he finds himself in, and so the central character can be looked upon as being most likely an amalgamation of the poet himself, the reader and mankind in general, creating a tension between the identities of the narrator and the central character.

We are then presented with this character — fear-filled and pitiful, clearly someone used to solitude. He is locked in his room, mute, filled with terror. Wright uses the almost mocking “See?” as the reader is forced to leap from his bed along with the narrator to

“ . . . . Wait still as stone or tree. Do you know how long a minute is? As stone or windless tree.”

I take these images of the stone and tree as symbolizing the continuity, tranquility and patience of nature juxtaposed with the terrified human.

In the second half of the poem the narrator manages to overcome his fear, exit his room and is confronted with the prison of another being — a dog. He is unable to see the dog, but understands that from within the box, the dog is attempting to send out a friendly signal — much as scientists beam a frequency equal to that of pi into outer space, hoping for extra-terrestrial contact — which the narrator seems unwilling to receive.

” . . . immediately setting off a feeble thumping sound you take to be that of the creature’s tail as it attempts with all its might to send a friendly signal. Suddenly you’re not so sure you want this particular dog, it reeks from here, or there, of old age, mange and cataracts.”

This is the pathetic emotional crux of the poem. The failure which elicits excruciating feelings of disgust and a resigned pity from the narrator who realizes that the body (the box) contains the slowly decaying organism which, frankly, starts to reek with the onset of age. He understands the futility of ever truly knowing another being. All fails, all is for nothing, all will be forgotten.

This is an unflinching gaze into the face of oblivion, a theme of Wright’s, memorably in his poem “The Word I”. Here is an extract from that poem:

Winter’s
harder, and harder to say
the word “I”
with a straight face,
and sleep–
who can sleep. Who has time
to prepare for the big day
when he will be required
to say goodbye to everyone, including
the aforementioned pronoun, relinquish
all earthly attachment
completely, and witness
the end of the world—

The thematic similarities between this piece of work and “Delivery” are immediately obvious. In “Delivery”, Wright seems to be saying that each person is locked within themselves and if we ever succeed in breaking out, we are then confronted with the impenetrable boxes of other beings and what does it matter anyway when each of us will decay, die and be forgotten, as ultimately the Sun, language and everything else will pass and be forgotten to us once we step through death’s doorway.

We ourselves will be completely forgotten and forgetting, will find deliverance one way or another.

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