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3 poems by Amanda Moore

1 essay by Keith Taylor,
on the poems of Amanda Moore

Five Things I Think about John



John’s a jerk. The comment about Old MacDonald’s Farm is more than casual misogyny, even if it’s meant as a joke, or even if his wife is “mercurial.” Even if you think the communication between animals is likely sophisticated, there’s no way “with an oink, oink here, and an oink, oink there” can be seen as anything but a gut punch.



And then John is clearly vain. There’s that cologne wafting along the beach, of course. I mean, who wears cologne for a morning swim in the ocean? And then he “strides across the sand, sleek in his wetsuit.” The poet doesn’t even need to mention that he’s probably sucking his stomach in. John cares a lot about what we think of him. And then when he is compared to a penguin “puffing out his chest/as he surveys his watery domain,” we can picture him even trying to lord it over the ocean itself.



But the poet complicates the issue, as poets are wont to do, when he/she mentions that poor penguin’s “contact call,” putting words to it for a quick second, “I’m lonely, come find me.” I’m not quite sure what to do with this. Suddenly I’m more sympathetic to John, despite my possibly easy disdain early on in the poem, when I had my first impressions. Maybe I’m still not ready to invite him over for breakfast, but …



I can see that John is trying, in his own way. I don’t have to read “his Men’s Group, his meditation” ironically. They can certainly be genuine efforts. He certainly seems capable when he enters the ocean, either dolphin or seal. And he might not be just foolhardy when he swims out to “that quiet place where waves begin.” Maybe he’s actually courageous? 



And that’s where the poet really messes with us, doesn’t allow us any easy judgements. “Who knows what he communes with/way out there,” out far past the place where he can show off to anyone. I don’t want to say that John has become transcendent; he still carries the taint of his joke and his vanity. But he has become much more interesting. The poet knows “the kind of animal I’m dealing with,” but I’m not sure I do. My certainties have been dented, and that is always one of the great gifts of good poems.

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