Been thinking about what to do with this one all day, on a busy day. I tried to look into the sources I have—nothing about DS 111. What I expected. I was thinking, maybe I might say something following from yesterday—what’s the point of this one? Does it have a point? Not feeling that.
Now I think it’s about dogs playing cards. Which is pretty darn funny, except there’s that little business about “digging up” the old canine friend, whom the speaker had shot dead. I like this poem.
If there’s a triggering event for this one, it’s out of reach. There doesn’t have to be. It’s macabre and funny at the same time, a witty riff on the campy images we all profess to think are ridiculous, but secretly chuckle at, of a party of dogs playing poker or bridge or pinochle, crazy eights or go fish. The references to card games are varied.
And now, a confession: I just read Dream Song #111 again and the whole scenario hove into view. Hint: it’s not about dogs playing poker. Sheesh!
Tundra, blubber, dogs, cards: Think shipwrecked polar explorers. They shot the dog(s) out of mercy or desperation, starving as they all must have been, waiting for the ice pack to thaw. When starvation gets bad enough, you dig out the corpse of the frozen dog from the tundra and dig in. This is not a funny poem, it’s a desperate poem, and look, it takes time sometimes for these obscure poems to sink in.
Is it about Shackleton’s famous Antarctic expedition, ill-fated but with, miraculously, no loss of life? Or Robert Falcon Scott’s South Pole expedition, the result of which every last man who set out in his company died miserably? Perhaps Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition of 1845? B. seems to have had a fascination with tragic polar exploration—DS 11 is about another one.
That stuff about the dogs playing cards? Heh heh. I’ve deleted such false starts before, embarrassing and misguided. But today, it’s a lesson. Read close, my hearties! These poems can be tricky fun, and they catch you off guard, and day to day, I’m sometimes tired. Today, yes indeed, tired, and been busy, and I’m tired. But it was a good day, and my head feels hollow, like a cantaloupe. That’s not a bad thing, if you’ve earned it.
Tired, yes, but, I’m not frozen in the ice pack either. Tonight, soon, I will say thanks to my soft warm bed, knowing I’ll get up and do it all again tomorrow. Routine is a prison, but get caught in some absurd extremity, and you’ll find yourself yearning for that familiarity you’ve forsaken. Believe it. There’s the metaphor of this poem right there, Henry. Frozen in some God forsaken tundra of the soul. Empathy rises in me, but you behaved like an idiot. What did you expect? Robert Falcon Scott raced Roald Amundsen to the South Pole, got there to find he’d been beaten, then succumbed to exhaustion and starvation in an Antarctic nightmare because his ponies all died. That was stupid, stupid, stupid. The last words in his journal were: “Great God! this is an awful place.” Amundsen, on the other hand, studied polar exploration with Greenland Eskimos, lifelong experts, took their advice and used sled dogs, and his only comment on reaching the South Pole first was that the trip was uneventful and sorry, kind of a bit boring. There’s the difference in a nutshell between an adventurous stupid life and a dull, competent, successful one.
So, I’m feeling grateful for my moderate triumphs today and my moderate comforts too.