Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jacob and the Angel

I wrote this poem a few years ago and now find it irritatingly pretentious, but here it is anyway. (I don't like poems where the poet is looking down from Heaven in judgement. I prefer poems where the poet is the one in the grip of some emotion.)

Jay pulls his boots off and slumps down
In front of the widescreen TV.
He flicks the switch. A killer clown
Leers out in sordid sympathy
With all the fury in Jay’s soul.
The world’s too much for his control;
You might see murder in his frown.
I will not let you go until you bless me

Night closes on him like a noose;
The grinning faces on the screen
Are so intolerably obtuse;
Even their happiness so mean
He sometimes thinks a nuclear bomb
Might be a liberation from
The crassness of the nightly news.
I will not let you go until you bless me.

He reaches out to switch it off
But then he stops. A ginger cat
Is licking her kittens. Somewhere, love
Is struggling to survive. At that,
He sits back and a look more mild—
The hungry wonder of a child—
Comes on him. It might be enough.
I will not let you go until you bless me.


  1. I didn't think it was a bad poem. I don't understand poetry all that well though, so I suppose I wouldn't know how to read the details. It's pretty true though, how you can be angry or apathetic one moment, and then you witness something that rejuvenates your spirit.

  2. It was a pretentious transposition of the story of Jacob struggling with the angel in Genesis and my character struggling with his better nature. Blah, blah, blah. I think that, if the reader of a poem is confused in any way, the poet has not done his job right. But thanks for your kind words.

  3. I was reading over a very hurried cup of coffee this morning, so your disclaimer at the top of the page had no time to sink in before I had finished the poem. At that first glance, therefore, I was inclined to attribute any judgement to Jay himself with the poet standing by as a quite impartial reporter. When I had a more leisurely read through it later, the impression remained (despite a likewise more leisurely read through your explanation at the top of the page). I thought the repetition of Jacob's cry made modern desperation seem a good deal less banal and a good deal more timeless, consequential, not to mention, at the very heart of it, a good deal more hopeful. Okay, I'll admit, I do love a good refrain, and there is nothing like the cadence of Biblical speech. . .but really, the juxtaposition of scene and refrain expressed a feeling that I suspect most folks have had to varying degrees of intensity, a feeling that if there are fathomless depths of hopelessness, it is still only proper to cry, in hope, out of the dark. (Eeek. How's *that* for pretentious?)

    Or, the short version: Sorry, but I liked it. -Molly

  4. Thanks, Molly! Well, by judgement, I really meant the implied judgement on Jacob's anger, scorn, hostility, etc. Which I think is a permanent temptation to those of a more conservative or traditionalist mindset, who look askance at so much of the modern world. My idea was that he will only be released from his purgatory when he finds something to bless, not curse. There are also subtle references to Peruvian mythology and scholastic cosmology (OK, that last sentence isn't true).

    I also like poems with refrains. I was trying to be a bit Yeatsian here.

    In other news, I envy you your morning coffee as I've had some dental surgery and I can't drink tea or coffee until it heals. It's maddening.

  5. Ah, Peruvian mythology. And there it was, staring me right in the face.

    I'm terribly sorry to hear about the hot drinks situation. Maddening doesn't half describe it, I'm sure. I hope the healing will go very quickly indeed. -Molly