Mmmmmm, words.

My Name Is Donald

Like a fish on a hedge, the horsefly
Lands on my wife’s lipstick.
That is sobriety.
That is the end of my hayride with oblivion.
I wonder: How long will it be until no one
Knows what a hayride is,
Or was? I’ve never been,
But the happiness I’ve seen in movies —
All the kids piled up in hay & a fiddler driving —
Is very real. It was real for a while.
Only a child can watch a movie sober.
He is younger than the mule pulling the wagon.
He is unshamed by the fiddler’s expertise.
His birth trumps all, which is to say he’s flying.

–Donald Revell

OK, I love it. But do I get it? I’m not sure.

It kind of reminds me of Faulkner-meets-JohnAshbery-meets-billycollins or something. (I know, enough Billy Collins already)

The hayride stream-of-consciousness is great. The words transient, nostalgic, youthful, rural, and tradition[al] all come to mind. Maybe I only think of Faulkner because of the thing about the fish… like My Mother is a fish… or whatever.
“Only a child can watch a movie sober,” what an interesting line. I wonder how much sobriety refers to alcohol and how much it refers to coming to terms with mortality. Oblivion suggests mortality. What is sobriety? The realization of something dangerously unexpected. A horsefly on lipstick, for example. Then how is a child sober? Perhaps, a child is able to make realizations with more clarity, with more acceptance. There are less preconcieved certanties with children.

The ending is so positive. Life trumps all. Surprisingly positive in light of the rest of the poem: a hayride with oblivion and whatnot. “He is flying,” though, suggests a connection with the horsefly–the cause of sobriety.

I suppose that children bring about a sort of sobriety as well as experience it.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this one. I like it.

2 Responses to “Mmmmmm, words.”

  1. SarahG says:

    I don’t think sobriety is somthing “dangerously unexpected” like you said. If a knowledge of mortality has anything to do with sobriety, then it has to be EXpected. Everyone who is aware of mortality expects it. In fact, I would generally say that sobriety comes from being aware of things. Of course, I see what you mean about a child being able to watch soberly – not a clue what’s going on with that, unless he means that children, being naive, tend to invest themselves completely in a film. They can suspend disbelief to a greater degree than adults, and they never watch movies with a grain of salt, or any kind of cynicism. That kind of sobriety is full of expectation.

  2. Ryan says:

    OK, you’re right.
    “Dangerously unexpected” is the wrong phrase.
    Maybe something like “the end of a fantasy” would be more apt…
    though children often live in a perpetual fantasy.
    So, honestly, I dunno, but there’s got to be some good way to get at that.

    I still think it’s a great poem. And I do think I get it on some level, but I’m having trouble expressing that.