Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poem of the Week: "Father's Old Blue Cardigan," by Anne Carson

Anne Carson is known as a being a poet of the mind, with all her poems packed full of allusions to Greek myth and ancient literature. A lot of people concentrate on her work's intelligence but forget to comment on the intensely personal aspect of it as well. This poem, "Father's Old Blue Cardigan," is as personal as it gets in poetry. It's a heartbreaker, with an ending that portrays Alzheimer's in a particularly honest and poignant way.

Father's Old Blue Cardigan, by Anne Carson

Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen chair
where I always sit, as it did
on the back of the kitchen chari where he always sat.

I put it on whenever I come in,
as he did, stamping
the snow from his boots.

I put it on and sit in the dark.
He would not have done this.
Coldness comes paring down from the moonbone in the sky.

His laws were a secret.
But I remember the moment at which I knew
he was going mad inside his laws.

He was standing at the turn of the driveway when I arrived.
He had on the blue cardigan with the buttons done up all the way to the top.
Not only because it was a hot July afternoon

but the look on his face --
as a small child who has been dressed by some aunt early in the morning
for a long trip

on cold trains and windy platforms
will sit very straight at the edge of his seat
while the shadows like long fingers

over the haystacks that sweep past
keep shocking him
because he is riding backwards.

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