Poetry

Poetry Sunday: 'Shock,' by Natalia Treviño

A second sustained metaphor—a fence or wall representing the speaker’s fear and defensiveness—is sustained from line 10 through 14. The poem closes on a simile (“like crumbling snow”), a figure of speech that conveys  the speaker’s final surrender to hope before she returns to the metaphor that opened the poem, “My edges grounded between your fingers.” Actually, I would say the last line returns to both sustained metaphors, because we can read “grounded” not just as what stops electrical current but also as something sharp (like glass) that has been “ground,” sharp edges smoothed. This is one example of several times the two sustained metaphors intersect and inform one another. In another, “serrated” means “toothed” or “jagged,” words typically associated more with broken glass than with electricity, and yet works with surprising power in the phrase “serrated magnetic teeth.” In the same way, the fence/wall imagery used to convey the speaker’s paranoia about relationships borrows from the electricity metaphor in “Mexican electric fence.”
The poem opens in paradox, signaled by that tiny but all-important word “yet” in line two. “You are my husband,” the speaker says, and “yet you love me.” The surprising implication here is that the speaker has come to expect that husbands do not love wives, and we do not have to read much further to learn why. From “second marriage,” we infer that the first trained the speaker not to expect love from that union. I marvel at the amount of information this speaker is able to convey about that first husband without so much as mentioning him even by indirect reference. We read him in the marks he’s left on her, a woman so traumatized that she sees herself as  dangerous and ringed by defenses (“shards of glass /  . . .dried into my concrete walls.”). At the same time, the speaker feels a flicker of hope that her walls may be breached and the current of dark feelings—a kind of PTSD— reversed. The way she alternates between the two extreme poles of hope and despair and also alternates in her use of these two metaphors makes me think—as I am sure Treviño intended—of alternating currents.  
As noted above, the speaker alternates between feeling relieved (lines 1-2, 5-6, 15-16) and feeling the need to show her teeth and claws (lines 3-4, 7-14). Let’s parse those turns one at a time. The poem opens in hopeful wonder (you are my husband and still you love me), then retreats in the second couplet to a defensive posture (“serrated magnetic teeth” and a “one volt eye”). From there, she turns again in the fourth couplet to hope that rage and fear can be overcome (“reversed”). A third turn, back to the bunker, happens in the fifth couplet, and the speaker stays negative through the last, furious surge of line 14: “Who would want a woman like that?” The final turn, the speaker’s surrender to hope and love, comes in the closing couplet. I count five turns in all.
The title, of course, wonderfully supports the poem’s meaning on several levels. “Shock” is what we feel when we touch a live wire that is not grounded, and it also communicates the damage inflicted by trauma. This speaker is nothing if not shell-shocked by her first marriage. But “shock” also communicates a good kind of surprise something akin to wonder felt when she realizes her second husband need not be like the first. The power of this poem is that it does not flinch from expressing the depth of pain felt by the speaker, but also manages to end on a note that gives her and hope for recovery and—we hope—happiness with her second husband.
 

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Paradise Drive book coverRebecca Foust’s fifth book, “Paradise Drive,” won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and was reviewed in the Georgia Review, Hudson Review, Huffington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Review of Books, and elsewhere. Recognitions include the 2015 American Literary Review Award for Fiction, the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize, the 2014 Constance Rook Creative Nonfiction Award, and fellowships from the Frost Place, MacDowell Colony, Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and West Chester Poetry Conference. “Paradise Drive” can be ordered at www.press53.com. For more information visit rebeccafoust.com.
 

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  • Mickey August 21, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you very much for introducing me to this poet, this lovely collection. My library borrowed it for me from the state of Washington, I think. I was intrigued and love the use of the two languages. Since I once spoke Spanish very well and was mistaken for a Spaniard, I enjoyed the use of a language mixed with English which I believe Spanish is one of those musical languages, unlike English. Thank you again and again.

    Reply
  • Mickey August 21, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you very much for introducing me to this poet, this lovely collection. My library borrowed it for me from the state of Washington, I think. I was intrigued and love the use of the two languages. Since I once spoke Spanish very well and was mistaken for a Spaniard, I enjoyed the use of a language mixed with English which I believe Spanish is one of those musical languages, unlike English. Thank you again and again.

    Reply
  • Anthony M. Flores July 3, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Awesome poem!:)

    Reply
  • Anthony M. Flores July 3, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Awesome poem!:)

    Reply