Memorial Bench, photograph by Corinne Bailey
On this winter’s morning,
a group gathers along the waterfront.
Some sit in lawn chairs; others stand.
All faces turn toward the strait.
The water and sky are pewter twins;
in silent witness, a raft of bluebell ducks.
Music plays — an instrumental of “Send in the Clowns.”
No one speaks.
Hearing your name, you awaken,
fly across the water, hover above the gathering.
Below, there is a bench, beneath the bench, a plaque, your name and two dates.
How many times had you walked past similar benches, graced with small gifts of flowers?
These are people you once knew. You recognize them. Beyond that, disconnection.
The music stops.
You move swiftly away, startling birds into flight.
Review by Robert Joe Stout
What’s happening here fascinated me. It’s very direct yet very subtle. The bucolic setting both prepares one for and surprises one for the appearance of the apparition narrator, the details are clear, simple, one is there and disconnects along with the narrator.
To achieve an emotional response by simple narration, using minimal but precise details, is good poetry.
Review by Claire Scott
A lovely poem of loss and disconnection. I like the images of the group of people, the water and sky and then the music. All before we are introduced to the person who has died, as though he or she is already not part of the scene. Then the “you” is wakened and hovering. The bench with the dates is a fabulous touch. And the poignant ending where “you” moves away forever. I like “pewter twins,” “a raft of bluebell ducks” and “graced with small gifts of flowers.” I am not sure why the music is “Send in the Clowns.” Maybe I am missing something here. I also wonder about “swiftly” in the last line. I seems as though the deceased would fade, or at least move slowly. And the pace of the poem is slow, so “swiftly” seems a bit startling. A good poem!!
Review by Jared Pearce
This poem reminds me of Nabokov’s fine story, “The Vane Sisters,” except it runs in a sort of opposite direction: here the speaker is well aware of the spiritual essence and presence of someone who has passed away and yet can touch the physical world. For me the contrast between the monochrome landscape and the phenomenology of the spirit is interesting, and the musical choice is at once sad (hey, it’s a sad song) and comical (the title is funny, what with the clowns and all), a useful medium to tie the departed’s ghost to the scene. Finally, the consideration of the brokenness—that while a momentary connection is visible, palpable, such a connection is not to be maintained and even indicates the ultimate rupture of death—gives the poem a weight and sense of tragedy that emerges naturally from the accumulation of the poem’s earlier details.