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for Swing, Rotting Leaves and Broken Twigs

1/9/2007 c1 243Manuel Fajar
These words strike so hard at the heart of being a father. So much we try that fails us, so much we leave unspoken, so much we wish could be different before we dissipate into those grains trampled underneath the swings. You have a gift for capturing the essence of realities we live, but seldom conscious glimpse. m
12/17/2006 c1 7The Breakdancing Ninja
Speaker: The father.

Object: The speaker's daughter.

Subject: A reuniting in the playground.

Stanza breakdown: 1) The first stanza is an establishment of place and action; it is simple and short, and still suggests an emotion-one that wishes to belong. 2) The second stanza puts the first into context: it suggests who the speaker and the object are, and their relationship to each other, as well as the condition of that relationship. 3) The third stanza seems to be a bridge between the condition of the second stanza and the condition of the last stanza; it depicts the rift growing, and becoming a former state not overtly suggested in the poem. The bleed into this third stanza starts in the last portion of the second, where there's a sort of disenchantment: the smiles disappear, and the world seems to rift and separate in two directions. As if, the very moment they leap out of revisiting old times, Reality sets in. 4) The fourth and last is the Goodbye, or the disconnect, not only between the father and his daughter, but of the readers-the watchers from their story and author. We have to watch the father and daughter part ways, but it is inferred that they will do this again, because the father uses future tense, as if to suggest a repeat, or a cycle (which will be expounded on more in the imagery).

Recurring imagery and symbolism: [rotting leaves and broken twigs/ and sand that will,/ one day,/ be like the two of us... she’ll become a rainbow/ in a puddle of oil/ and melting snow.] The poem has a way with scenery; not just in setting it up, but connecting it to the father and his child. There is a unison between them and their meeting place, as if they mark its existence with their visiting it and interacting with it. They give the playground and that part of the city a story just by meeting there.

The father suggests that he and his child will become the playground-the strange part of the imagery is that what he suggests they will transform into are things that are already broken, used and small: rotting leaves and twigs will be reintroduced to Nature, even if they are already dying. They will be part of a cyclical journey. Sand never really dissipates, it just travels great distances and does that forever.

All the things that he suggests that his daughter will become are fluid things. He suggests that she is something colorful found in something small (and sometimes less than clean). Water and oil don't mix, but they make a really beautiful rainbow puddle. She seems to be the mixture between her father and her mother as well as who she has become apart from them, and though mother and father and her current self don't mix (as suggested through the last stanza's lines [We'll remember/ to hate each other], the daughter still is a beautiful, colorful facet of both worlds. Rainbow puddles are usually a sign of industry, and they're tepid. But even then, they have a really ethereal quality to them.

The strange thing is that this feels like it's happening at night. [under the dim light parade/ of passing cars and city lights] Maybe they had spent a whole day together, and had just parted ways that very evening. There might have been lapses of silence and conversation that the poem didn't mention-didn't need to mention. But it almost feels like an amorous rendezvous. If not for talk about mom in the second paragraph, the poem could become a very romantic (but awkward) song.

The second stanza gives us the impression that the daughter isn't very old, but the tense and later lines suggest otherwise: the father SEES the daughter as if she is young, as depicted through the lines [like my little girl/ and, for a brief moment,/ I'll be her father again]. They revisit innocence and the father vicariously envisions that his daughter is what she used to be: his daughter. The achievement of this poem is depicting the loneliness of both parties, and also the longing to return, where filial love becomes so strong that it almost looks like romantic love-that intense desire to see one's child and relive a portion of life, where things were happy and good and un-lonely. The father is a humble character in this right; he doesn't force his daughter to become -his daughter- again, but rather, he envisions it. The fact that they meet time and time again shows a sort of faith and loyalty in the ritual; it really feels like an intense love, even if the moment is awkward and feels obligatory-like visiting a grandma or a longlost friend that you can't really seem to connect with anymore.

The hope the speaker has, is to see his daughter endlessly, even if they do the same thing time and again. The disheartening part (that almost makes thinking about this poem unbearable) is the fact that the daughter isn't getting any younger. We could almost see that she's already at maturation, in adolescence or young adulthood, from the way they yell and part ways in the very last stanza (aside from the fact that she is asking about her mother from her father, which means she's out and about, hopefully in college and not selling herself in the city, hahaha).

There is an essence of exhaustion in the poem, not just through the images of "rotting leaves" and "broken twigs", but also in the [wrinkles/ where our smiles/ are supposed to be]. There's also a dark, heavy cloud the poem leaves off on-we're assured that they're still going to do this again, and that they'll have a moment of happiness, but the exhaustion of the ritual is overpowering. We and they wait for that singular moment of happiness, sandwiched in between awkwardness and ritualistic, role-playing of the hate between child and parent. The speaker and the poem seem not to mind the suffering, they both wish to see the object of their affection.

There's a balance in the poem between male and female, and though the relationship doesn't have the dramatic or dynamic qualities of lovers, it's quite close. The mother is an invisible figure, represented by the father. He happens to be very intuitive and sensitive, and is easily a stand-in for the mom. Mom's chicken is [still terrible], but the nourishment dad provides makes up for all of that. He feeds his child love and care whenever they agree to meet and make small chitchat. He tries to give her what little he can-there might even be a sense of worry. He sees her swinging; the playground is a place where parents are guardians over their children, but the children are still free to have fun-harm-proof fun. Outside of this arena, he can do nothing for his daughter, but hope she will be in one piece when he sees her again. He is very much like a father and mother put together, and he also shows a quality in the poet that is very motherly and fatherly.

Though the ritual is very sad in itself, it seems to be a celebration of Life through constant reunion.

+ + +

Hee, hee. It's about half past four in the morning on a Sunday. I think I'll be learning to relate to this poem over time-it's beautiful, and I think it reflects a lot of relationships all over the world. They don't -really- hate each other, and that's comforting. But I just feel sad knowing that something will keep them in this loop, and instead of reconciling and finding a less scarring ritual, this one will continue. The intense love between parents and their children is almost possessive: all or nothing. Stay here under our love and care, or find it elsewhere. But when parents give that sort of ultimatum, they don't really mean it-and that's what I loved about this father. He doesn't REALLY want to let go of his child, but he has to.

Hopefully this review was worthwhile. Reading it over and over again makes me identify with it more and more, but a part of me doesn't want to. It's an extremely delicate piece of work, though. It's not a jumble; it doesn't have a sloppy quality to it. It presents images and thoughts one at a time, and shows a lot of thought and deliberation. Its interpretability is dwarfed by its extreme love and care in delivery, but this is probably one of the most solid, the strongest poem in your collection, and shows your breadth of thought, design and perception in action.

I think it has replaced "Midnight, Melanie" in the sense that its consciousness jives with each stanza carefully, but not so carefully that is meticulous and devoid of feeling. It's a selfless, but un-dramatic poem.

Strangely enough, it is my new personal favorite (of all the reads I've read by any author this year, save "Quattrocentista" and "Hiring a Hooligan").

Rock on, Monochrome Lovers!

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