Thomas Jardine

The two catch themselves on the verge an apology and then are uncertain as to exactly why, and my feeling is they realize that they love each other, and feel foolish for arguing. This may not be correct, however, because, since the two arguing do not apologize, but ‘halt’; a failure to communicate may have occurred. Either way is an absolutely wonderful theme for a poem, and worthy. This accomplishes so much more than many poems which have very little to offer other than a poetical half-thought, which is something that sounds poetical but isn’t.

          What I will do is run through the poem with comments as I go. Along with the comments, I will add my way of seeing things, which is meant to clarify statements I make on the poem. (Everyone has their own opinions, and a wonder exists if any two opinions concur.)

         


AfterShocks

 

We are not in the same place after all.


Very good first line. The reader is captivated. Without any seeming effort, the sentence carries the reader immediately into a scene. A scenario is set, presented clearly and straight forwardly. There is a we, and time takes place with something that has happened and the reader would like to know more about what is going on. The reader is hooked. Nothing pretentious exists to force a statement.

 

The only evidence of the disaster,

 

Another good line, highly presentable, with the word disaster already combining fact and image. ‘Disaster’, when read, already lifts the mind into something of interest.

Mapping out across the bedroom wall,

 

Here, in this line, we sing with the poet: ‘Mapping…’ Noun-verb-action, and then enhancing the ambience with ‘bedroom wall,’ and


Tiny cracks still fissuring the plaster –

 

artfully and concisely describing the scene—the story—the mood—the situation between the two people. See how the previous three lines fit each other like a puzzle, utilizing the essential, concisely.

 

A new cartography for us to master,

 

This further elaborates the development of the metaphor, as does every single line. This is no easy feat to accomplish. People instinctively admire order, and a major part of art is always order as opposed to chaos. ‘Aftershocks’ takes the form of a sonnet to high ground, into narrative, analogy and metaphor, letting the reader take for themselves what wisdom is humbly offered. The truly appreciable form in poetry is not in the meter or rhyme itself, but in the “form” of creativity. Rhyme and meter, in this poem, totally, artfully done, serve to help the tonality of expression come alive in artistic language, to help the images sound clear and bright, much the way a painting by illusion escapes paint and color away from the surface of canvass. One could remove the rhyme from this poem and the worth of the poem will still exist. The fact that it does expertly utilize rhyme delights the mind even more.


In whose legend we read where we are bound:
Terra infirma, a stranger land, and vaster.

 

Might many of us in the midst of an argument feel we are going to undiscovered places, and with trepidation? Note the aliveness in the above drama-like pair of lines, and the proper colon setting up what follows, a triple phrase, as it were, with a resounding effect.


Or have we always stood on shaky ground?

 

Here we can be assured we may trust the art, because as the poem continues, there is continuity of word use; all the words fit each other in sequential logic and meaning. This is not easy to do in a poem. No odd-ball or non-correlating word is picked up and tossed into the poem to obscure weakness.


The moment keeps on happening: a sound.
The floor beneath us swings, a pendulum
That clocks the heart, the heart so tightly wound,

 

Here, in this sentence, one might pass by easily, ‘clocks the heart’, an original construction, along with the ‘tightly wound’, but it is not to be missed. It is hard enough to find an original theme for a poem, and even more rare to find words used creatively; Stallings is actually using words and the words are not using Stallings. What does this mean? Some poets can write ‘turns of phrase’, their lines will have magical essence, or somehow lift higher than mundane, pedestrian poesy. There is no exact answer or explanation. The reader will mysteriously know when hearing a true lyrical voice.


We fall mute, as when two lovers come

 

This line brings the poem into clear view, and the reader begins to get a sense of completion with the next line,


To the brink of the apology, and halt,

 

But the reader is made to keep going, involved in drama,


Each standing on the wrong side of the fault.

 

and is answered with dry wit and a dash of humility.

 

 

Aftershocks

 

We are not in the same place after all.
The only evidence of the disaster,
Mapping out across the bedroom wall,
Tiny cracks still fissuring the plaster –
A new cartography for us to master,
In whose legend we read where we are bound:
Terra infirma, a stranger land, and vaster.
Or have we always stood on shaky ground?
The moment keeps on happening: a sound.
The floor beneath us swings, a pendulum
That clocks the heart, the heart so tightly wound,
We fall mute, as when two lovers come
To the brink of the apology, and halt,
Each standing on the wrong side of the fault.