Rosanna Warren's poem"Aftermath" is the kind of reading that brings to mind the cliche that at times you gets a deadly chill that makes them think someone had just walked over the spot where you'll be buried. This is a very sharp, very clear utterance of a moment something you see clarifies and reveals the facts and truth behind an all consuming anxiety. The cancer survivor, undergoing various sorts of therapies, has the time to reflect and sort through a life that is past, negotiating with the hard fact of her mortality, and witnesses the birth of the doe, a new life having a violent arrival into the land of the sense and sensation.
The fawn couldn't stand
but raised its too-large head to gaze at you.
You were, as you said, already more or less
posthumous. You took each other in.
One of you before, the other beyond fear.
Two creatures, side effects on one another,
headed in opposite directions.
This is a nice play between the narrator and the doe and her new fawn, two examples of aftermath, the first being the reviewed results of a life nearing the end of it's term that teeters just a bit on a wallow, the second being the abruptness and pain of birth. One is an exit, the other an entrance, and there is the slightest suggestion of what might be larger stakes in this epiphany, the endless cycle of birth, life,death. It is a bit anthropomorphic, one would say, to suggest that the fowl and the narrator had a primal connection as this chain of life was pulled forward, one creature being pulled in while another is moved out, but it's a conceit that works simply because it isn't overworked nor used a license for a murky metaphysics; poet Roseanna Warren maintains brief, taciturn, fully aware that her task is to serve the image and it's subtle revelation.
Compare this with Norman Mailer's style of attributing human characteristics to a moon rock, observed through thick layers of compartment glass, in his wonderful book about the moon landing Of a Fire on the Moon; Mailer was at his loquacious best at the time, and had to extend several elaborate metaphorical constructions in order to get away with his suggestion that he was in telepathic communication with this lone, vacuum packed lunar nugget. Even Mailer partisans like myself wince when he come across this concluding passage,
and realize that the writing was more performance than insight; Mailer's rhetoric capsized any insight he might originally have had.
Warren , in contrast, is particularly delicate in her handling of an idea that would be ludicrous in left in in the hands of a less discriminating discriminating writer.That she resists the need to lather it up, lard it up or lord it up in her effort is evidence of someone who can mold language to fit a mood, to underscore a mood. The tone here is ambivalence which is marked by a paucity of qualifiers, and there is the sense that one is in a rarefied air , crisp and chilly, where a cold light is about to reveal an unadorned fact in your life. "Aftermath" is a gem, a melancholic but artfully restrained evocation of a difficult state of being.