Yes, I know, it’s Tuesday again. What can I say? As always, life before poetry. But today I have a poem by Troy Jollimore, a recent Squaw connection, whose book Tom Thomson in Purgatory, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. One section of the book has poems that give a nod to Berryman’s Dream Songs. Troy’s alter ego is not Henry, but Tom Thomson. Here’s one of my favorites:
Tom Thomson in Retrospect
He had a good run. Ran like hell, in fact,
toward the wisdom and away from pain.
(Except he got them mixed up, it turned out.)
Now, worn, half-empty, wound down, he looks back
and wonders what it meant. What pattern here?
Squint, look away, look back quick: it don’t change.
As bad as trying to read some night-scribed note
in rational morning sunlight, to adhere
lyrics to Schoenberg. Since when does guest of honor speak
at his own funeral? Really, what to say?
How sum it up? He’d rather sum it down:
some cheap joke to send survivors on their way,
then settle back in his birch bark canoe
and let the current do what current do.
And seeing as Troy is alive and possibly available, I want to ask, is that last couplet a reference to Lawrence’s Ship of Death? And why “the wisdom” and not simply “wisdom”?