Feb 27, 2013

"Frying Trout While Drunk" by Lynn Emanuel

Eye to Eye

Frying Trout While Drunk by Lynn Emanuel : Poetry Magazine

At the risk of belaboring the osprey photos, it recently occurred to me to crop them for a still more Gothic effect. Then of course I felt I had to find a poem that was at least loosely connected. I ended up at Lynn Emanuel’s “Frying Trout While Drunk,” which I find disturbing and moving.
Mother and Child?
The osprey—for convenience I’m making her female—seems to have more control over her cornetfish than the poem’s Mother has over her trout (or her man, or her daughter), but who knows. That huge bird had to work so long and hard at the skinny, bug-eyed fish that l I eventually lost interest. Who’s to say that this was easy work for the predator? Maybe she was struggling to stay balanced atop that pole. Maybe it was her first cornetfish, which required new skills for consumption.

Maybe she’d eat only a fraction of the fish before flying it home and offering it to her osprey-man “of lechery so solid/you could build a table on it/and when you did the blues would come to visit.”  Maybe it will be “with the care of the very drunk” that she hands him the plate.

In a poem full of strong images, these lines struck me as particularly powerful:

            She is a beautiful, unlucky woman

            mother’s dress falling to the floor,   
            buttons ticking like seeds spit on a plate.   

            the knife in one hand and the trout  
            with a belly white as my wrist.

These are images of a domestic scene I haven’t had to know. I think Lynn Emanuel presents it with admirable restraint and minimal self-pity or self-righteous accusation. I find myself thinking of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” but Emanuel might have more control over her subject than Plath did. 


Pasadena Adjacent said...

This line too - though it might be a bit more labored

" Nash Rambler, its dash
where her knees turned green
in the radium dials of the 50's."

I think I'll put this poem up on Face Book. It's a keeper

Banjo52 said...

I wondered if it might be a favorite for you. And as one who kind of remembers Nash Ramblers, I like that passage too. I've never seen knees turned green by radium, but I believe in the detail.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Wow, what imagery in this poem. And in your photos...
I can just see mother
"laying a trail from the sink
to a glass of gin and back."
You notice how she keeps going back to the gin AND wanting the man.

Through the eyes of the child - first when the child is observing the mother; second when the child is observing herself.
Great find - just like a Nash Rambler is!

Anonymous said...

"With the care of the very drunk..." Sad and perfect.

Stickup Artist said...

I have a very good friend whose childhood is summed up by this poem. I would pass it on because she adores poetry, but it's just too much truth for someone who daily struggles for the fragile peace of mind one has if growing up in such an environment. Life can break your heart...

The 2nd image is as chilling as the poem.

Rune Eide said...

When I saw your new version of the osprey, I was reminded of these famous words by Rober Capa: "If your picture isn't good enough, you're not close enough." But then, he hadn't zoom-lenses and Photoshop :-) Very improved!

A sad, but at the same time touching and understanding poem.

I too got distracted by the radium; did you know that they put radioactive elements in very may everyday substances, including toothpaste? Just for that extra "glow" and "atomic image".

Hannah Stephenson said...

Whoa.....that poem is a doozy, and quite disturbing (everyone in the poem is damaged--like all humans--and keeps damaging themselves).

Anne Higgins said...

I came upon your blog when I was looking for Richard Wilbur's poem "A Hole in the Floor" since today is his birthday. I liked your post so much that I found your current page and post. Really delightful blog. Thanks for writing it.

Best wishes

Banjo52 said...

Thanks, everyone. Maybe, like Stickup, we all know someone for whom the poem would be too real, too effective, to be helpful . . .

RuneE, sometimes a terrific image can divert too much reader attention to itself rather than being an important but cooperative part of the poem. Maybe the radium is such an image, at least for some readers? Thanks for ruining my toothpaste!

Anne, welcome and thank you. I hope you return.

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