T.R.Hummer has Three Poems posted today in Slate, which delighted me to no end. This is a trio of swirling rhymes that will not stand for being mere decorations on that tall, swaying tree called literary style. Hummer has the musical sway and swing of Edgar Allen Poe, able to digress, elongate and contract a phrase at will, finding a tonality of both everyday things and historical memory. This has the snap and splintery detail of what Tom Waits does with his lyrics, but in this case, the author is more a witness than a persona recalling a location changed by time, personalities who thrived in the wallow of their eccentricities and who are now gone, replaced by urban professionals and Lego style architecture.
Hummer's trilogy addresses a set of conversations where it seems that the sweep of events and the acceleration of change, complicated by encroaching generations younger and hungrier than older denizens, all wind up in the dustbin, not swept by rather dumped, or pushed, as in off a cliff."Imperial" nicely echoes and paraphrases "Richard Cory" but rather than suicide being the inevitable curse, we have a personage of fame, wealth, prestige denied the right to be fully human and full of complexity; he is in a cage, in a sense mummified, locked up in symbolism, turned into a commodity of hope for a citizenship that he is by birth obligation inflexibly beholden to.
"Prince Albert in a can" becomes not a joke but a description of what someone's life has become. "Pandora Jackson" , In turn, is the story, spread over generations and variations of Diaspora , of beset upon peoples wandering the map for new homes, places of security where they may, in turn, thrive and build communities; but all are uprooted again, leaving only the withered ghosts of the means of getting there, railroad tracks, maintenance equipment, box cars still and void of voices , We are crowded along until again we are either lifted again by Biblical promise, the Rapture , or left behind to scrape by in the hallows of the emptied cities and towns, subsisting until history itself is forgotten.
"Bloodflower Sermon" concerns the dark fact the homeless millions in our communities, but speaks finally to the supposition that the light of virtue, the light of truth, leads us not to Heaven but merely rids us of the veils of self-constructed mythologies we've sustained our daily lives with the clever rationalizations we've decorated the walls of Plato's Cave and shows us for what we really are, instinct-driven creatures given a gift of free will with which we could do great good or worsen the state of things of the planet, The echoes Delmore Schwartz beautifully, succinctly; Hummer suggests that in the raw state of nature, bereft of things and self-assurance, we find ourselves waiting to be judged. It is a calculus we dread, a trip no one truly wants to take.