A Hug from Rumplebitchkin
A real slice of childhood life. The terse sentence structure
piece move along. The perspective shifts help flesh out both the
children’s take on things and the old lady. I wonder about this
old lady. She’s portrayed as a witch, the stereotypical
“other.” At the end of the story, she almost seems to take
pleasure from frightening the kids, which is certainly very witch-like.
It’s certainly deserved by the kids. But it doesn’t seem
totally malicious. She almost seems to look forward to these
opportunities. She certainly seems to be well-practiced. The title
seems to imply non-malicious behavior as well—it is a
“hug” after all.
The flipside is the kid’s take on things. It’s
unclear what the kids are specifically trying to do—whether they
want to ring the old woman’s doorbell and run away, or whether
they’re trying to see her. What could be a simple ding-dong-ditch
is shown as a rite of passage; the fairy tale character of the witch or
loner is updated into a shut-in pensioner.
All in all, the relationship seems to be benevolent. The kids get a
healthy scare and the old lady gets a little bit of human interaction.
It’s a shame that this is as far as it goes, but the old lady
doesn’t seem to be inviting kids around for cookies. At least,
this is the impression the reader gets. I have to admit, I was kind of
hoping she’d beat the kid with the frying pan…
The Guitar Man
A rich character sketch. There are a lot of pitfalls to a
“hard-living” story and to a blues story. Davis does a good
job navigating around and avoiding most of these. He focuses on the
redemptive possibilities in the character, going so far as to have him
be “saved” in a Christian sense. Redemption for Guitar Man
doesn’t come solely through religious redemption, though; it
comes from the love of the music.
The inclusion of Guitar Man’s grandfather really adds the
possibility of an emotional connection for the reader. It grounds the
character—giving him a real history. He isn’t solely an
archetype; we begin to see him as something resembling a human being.
The details—brief selections of song lyrics, chords and
references to scales and musical devices—really help flesh out
I’m generally not a fan of bar stories, but I like seeing the
story from the point of view of a musician, especially one who isn't
totally jaded. In fact, Guitar Man turns away from fame; he mentions
not wanting to be in the spotlight, literally, and we can only assume
he also means this figuratively. The focus, here, is on the music, not
the accoutrements of fame.
Coffee is a River
The line breaks are quick and clean, which helps move the
the page. There is a consistent aquatic metaphor throughout. The river,
like the morning ritual of drinking coffee, flows ever onward through
all of our days. The poem has a playful tone. Fowles describes
following the river, which will “find the open ocean and lead us
to her home (which, according to the coffee container, is either
Indonesia or Eastern India).” He goes on to add, “I hope
it’s India,” and suffuses the poem with a wistful air,
describing a fairy tale (his words) version of this place he’d
like to visit, replete with elephants, a golden palace, exotic dishes,
and other magical, almost childlike things including
“mythological men with blue skin.”
In his notes, Fowles compares the pouring of coffee to a trickling
river, which is apt. One can imagine him preparing for his workday,
pouring coffee, luxuriating in its rich odors, and wishing he could
escape from the 9-5 drudgery. But this is a hopeful poem. Fowles hopes
to experience things fresh and new; he wants to “read the Bhagavad-Gita for the first
time.” It isn't simple escapism he’s preaching; he’s
writing about the preservation of joie
Pain Comes in Two Sizes
Beginning with a time (2 a.m.) grounds the reader immediately.
Obviously, the narrator is deeply troubled—so much so that he
can’t sleep. The reader is never really let in on the problem,
though. What we get is insomnia, a vivid description of the aural
detritus of night in the average home—the noise of machines.
There are clues as to the source of the insomnia, though. The narrator,
tossing and turning, can’t get comfortable, “Maybe
I’m better off on/my left side. Maybe I’m better
off/dead.” The line breaks are particularly effective here,
emphasizing the surprise of the morbid turn. Why is he thinking about
Maybe, instead, the question is why is he thinking about
life—because this is the true concern of the narrator. While he
lays awake, he listens to ice clink in the ice maker, his head also
full of noise, “Advil or Aleve? Coke or Pepsi?” he asks.
Minutia like these noises and these questions is what fills a
At the end of the poem, six minutes have passed. We can take this more
than one way. On the surface, it is a humorous observation—the
narrator fills that an immense amount of time has passed, but it
hasn't. In addition, we could take these six minutes as
foreboding—put simply, the fact that only six minutes has passed
means that many more minutes must still pass. In a state such as
insomnia, this can be a hopeless thing. It implies that there is much
more suffering to go. On the other hand, of course, when there’s
time remaining, there’s hope.
- CL Bledsoe
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