Some Daysby Billy Collins
Some days I put the people in their places at the table, bend their legs at the knees, if they come with that feature, and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs. All afternoon they face one another, the man in the brown suit, the woman in the blue dress, perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved. But other days, I am the one who is lifted up by the ribs, then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse to sit with the others at the long table. Very funny, but how would you like it if you never knew from one day to the next if you were going to spend it striding around like a vivid god, your shoulders in the clouds, or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper, staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?
Some nights I read poems. Some nights I wonder how much sense they make. This one does. It describes the observed with the initial intention of showing us a part of truth - only a part of truth of the world, which is showing us what we see. What it is not showing us is that which we don't see.
The two poems given for analysys are very similar. They are prose-like, describing the ordinary in the obedient and ordinary manner - this is what happens, this is what I write. But there is more to these words. There is a thought put into every single one of them, speaking of the emotions that the writer has infused the mood of his poem with. We see visual images such as "tiny wooden chairs, brown suit, blue dress, dollhouse, long table". They create the atmosphere of violence, tension, nostalgia. The sad colors. The dry shapes. A lot of childhood. The amazing contrast in the coexistence of both in the language of the poem.
Sad childhood. The author speaks, of course, of his daily life, something that he sees around him as a grown up, but the words he uses for it inevitably bring us back to the childhood images that he has consciously or unconsciously connected to the real situation. The poem is filled with the idea of using someone and being used. People are things (dollhouse, "bend their legs", "come with this feature" speaking of people). The mentioning of a dollhouse brings in the image of puppets and puppetier - someone, who plays in a violent way with some inanimate, but very much alive for children's imaginations objects.
The adjectives here serve the purpose of conveying the emotions vaguely, much more so do the verbs. If we look at verbs in the progression of the composition, we can notice an intricate pattern appearing: "put, bend, come with the feature, fix, face, lifted up by the ribs, lowered, sit". The poem starts with the outburst of controlling energy from the side of the poet - he violates the other people. Then comes a turn for other people to violate him.
He says this is life. The "ordinary". Sadly it is so, even more sadly it is not so too. The expressions are caught, the ordinary observed.
People are dead. They have no chance of coming alive - that is where I think he misses the point. As a human, not as a poet.
Artifice is a certain kind of blindness. Blindness can only be connected to the lack of understanding, not lack of truth. The truth of being alive is always there, sometimes we pretend for a moment we are alive - and then we are dead. But we always have a chance of being fully alive again as all along the way we have been nothing but ourselves, alive, we can be nothing else. We have been acting. The theater is a part of real life. It has always been that. The idea of the separation of theater from reality has existed only in our mind.
The simple observation of the pain of the heart that meets the fakeness and the inequality, artifice in the way people deal with each other simply by expression can warm up the heart. The poem gives consolation to the heart purely by speaking out the truth about the reality that the author sees. He does not make any judgements or conclusions out of it – he simply states the fact and lets us decide for ourselves. We can either feel the pain and take it as our own, connect to it and mourn it – dollike people with plastic faces, perfectly behaved, perfectly obedient – we can admit that in ourselves and by the compassion of experiencing become the live person in that – or we can judge the author for the «narrowness of the mind» and stiffen ourselves up to seeing fully his expression. Which one do I chose? I like the first one. I have been fighting a lot with that poem but I've come to accept it as a part of reality through the openness of my heart to everything that the author has to say and softness to it. That is my decision. Which one is yours?