Winter Wheat

by Paul Muldoon

I

The plowboy was something his something as I nibbled the lobe
of her right ear and something her blouse
for the Empire-blotchy globe
of her left breast on which there something a something louse.

II

Those something lice like something seed pearls
and her collar something with dandruff
as when Queen Elizabeth entertained the Earls
in her something something ruff.

III

I might have something the something groan
of the something plowboy who would with such something urge
the something horses, a something and a roan,

had it not been for the something splurge
of something like the hare
which even now managed to something itself from the something
                                                                                                           plowshare.

Notes on the Poem

What kind of a whimsical puzzle has Paul Muldoon presented us with in the fractured sonnet that is "Winter Wheat", from his 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection "Moy sand and gravel"? Does the title offer a clue towards deciphering the sometimes sensual (ear lobe nibbling!), sometimes impish (lice like ... seed pearls, eek!) lines that follow? Winter wheat refers to strains of wheat planted - perhaps counter-intuitively - in the fall to germinate and vegetate under winter snows and continue growing the next spring. What has Muldoon planted here that might be germinating in the reader's mind ... to surprise, grow and nurture sometime later? (Winter wheat appears elsewhere in Muldoon's work, in his intriguing poem "The Merman".) That "something something" tic throughout the poem is the heart of what puzzles, fascinates, maybe even kind of irritates the reader. Structurally, the occurrences of "something" are perfectly placed to maintain the poem's metre and rhyme scheme. Simultaneously, they maintain some of its mystery. Are these lines taken from other works, are they parodies (Joyce is one suggestion) ... or what? Are the "something something"'s indicative of a mind striving to commit something to memory, or of memories starting to break down?

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