ALBANY POETRY EXAMINER
Poems and their meanings
When reciting a poem a poet often hears observations from the audience about its meaning that don’t conform to the writer’s intention. And that’s one of the beauties of poetry – it can mean different things to different people. A poet might be disappointed that the point was lost. Nevertheless the words touched some unspoken part of the listener’s heart and made an impact. On the other hand one wonders if it is necessary for a poem to be meaningful. Sometimes the rhythm and sounds suffice for a listener’s enjoyment – just as hearing a poem being read in a foreign language can move and delight us. Lenore Weiss challenges us in her whimsical poem:
Driver Turned into a Plastic Bag
A plastic bag floats over the highway,
glances at each driver through the windshield.
Where are you headed and where are you going?
Roll down your window and bring me along.
He looks for the opening of a moonroof,
a hand to break his free fall.
Sails above another moonroof
and scouts for a come-on on the highway,
hopes to knock out the gravity of his fall,
uses his handles as a shield,
also to propel his plastic along.
He has to keep it going.
Before the free fall,
he knew exactly where he was going,
slumped before a windshield
with a broken moonroof
stuck on the highway,
hunger as a passenger tagged along.
He shifted along-
side electrified guardrails, fell
for a woman who cursed him on the highway
to flap his wings unmotorized, an empty bag going
out of his mind for a slice of moonroof
to face the jury of a windshield.
Now a hitch-hiker who chases windshields,
he looks for a thumbs-up to grab him along.
Show him an opening through a moonroof.
Let him return as a waterfall
flows. One day he’s going
to leave the highway.
There’s a shield of wind over Bridal Veil Falls
kicking up white foam, going along
where he forgets moonroof, highway, everything she ever said.
Author’s note: “Driver Turned into a Plastic Bag” was inspired by my daily commute, sitting behind the wheel of a car and watching plastic bags appear from nowhere to float above all the car antennas. The story of someone turned into a plastic bag by an evil witch started from there. I guess I needed to amuse myself.
The poem is a sestina. The University of Texas at Austin has a very nice definition: “A verse form first used by the Provençal troubadours, consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line closing stanza, with the end words of the first stanza repeated in varied order as end words in the other stanzas and also recurring in the closing stanza.” With its repetition, the form lent itself to a sense of the plastic bag floating aimlessly on the highway.
Bio: Lenore Weiss contracts at Apple Computer as a content developer. A member of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, she facilitated the Middle East Peace Committee for several years. Lenore Weiss makes her home in Oakland, California. She edited From the Well of Living Waters: Voices of a 21stCentury Synagogue, (2011) and awaits two poetry collections also to be published this year: Tap Dancing on the Silverado Trail, from Finishing Line Press, and Mother and Other Love, West End Press. Lenore is an active blogger. See techtabletalk at http://techtabletalk.posterous.com/
Announcement: Come to a reading to celebrate the newly published, From the Well of Living Waters, Saturday, April 9 from 4 to 6:30pm at 1300 Grand Avenue at Kehilla Community Synagogue. There is a $5 donation. The event is wheelchair accessible. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: In Lenore’s sestina she imagines a witch has changed her into a plastic bag floating around, looking for a place to settle. It’s a surrealistic game where there is no need to see realistic connections – distracting the reader from life’s real problems in its playful approach. But the poem also conjures other meanings. One that comes to mind is to take it as a metaphor for life. There are times when we all feel like empty plastic bags floating around, looking for that un-namable something, hungry, failing in our relationships, and bumping into hard spots, until eventually we quit trying to find that perfect place, go with the flow, and forget about all the rest.