I’m so tired of whining about how good my life is what with the palm trees in the front yard, bowls of cherry oatmeal left out for bears, the silver ducks with their glitter streaked tails marching around the still life in wet unkempt grass–crushed garden glove, crushed dental floss, Marlboro pack abandoned crushed–but driving home from the party last night, I said, John, how lucky we are that the post colonial grant refusers haven’t had a chance with us. Maybe a branch will fall on our daughter’s head or our son will crack like a pale blue robin’s egg, or they will stop eating, take up cigarettes then lung cancer, diabetes, death. Yes, he said, Sugar. He paused with a little breath I couldn’t guess. Maybe he was thinking about the backhoe grinding down our street to clear the debris from the buildings that gas exploded, the coffee shop, the bank, the quickstop, and on and on every window for half a sun dappled mile shattered. It could happen any day.
Review by Maya Lowy
Deborah Bacharach’s “Any Day” grabbed me first, quick as a fist, with its lists of images. The poem opens in everyday dialect: “I’m so tired of whining,” “what with the palm trees.” These lines establish the speaker as casual, direct, grounded. The poet crafts, with seemingly plain language, such stunning pictures in the first four lines: the cherry oatmeal, glitter-streaked ducks, and then the list of crushed things seems to begin the shift from idyll to apocalypse, in the most pedestrian type of world’s end: turning to trash.
The word “but” shifts us from the status quo to the hypothetical, as the speaker spins potential dooms to her partner in the car. They’re coming back from a party, and coming down from the joys of the beginning of the poem. The speaker almost seems to equate the “post colonial grant refusers” with some kind of wrathful gods, wreaking disaster onto her children. And the turn after John’s acknowledgement of her suggestions, to the gas-exploded buildings down the street from their home, shows that this disaster is truly just “any day” away from the family that the poem focuses on. This image-centric poem subtly grows narrative, and by the end I’ve found myself invested in this nuclear family, in the mundane disaster on their street. At thirteen lines long, this poem’s almost a sonnet, and its narrative twists nod to that form while not bowing to it.
The poet has done a masterful job, here, of marrying narrative and image, form and content, description and dialogue, rhythm and reality, the ordinary and the magical. With the talkative likeability of a James Wright or Sharon Olds, and the rhythmic awareness of a Hopkins, Bacharach continually impresses— her dynamic, sensitive work is a force to keep watching.