Gruss

Dean Young

copyright ©2008, Dean Young

Whenever I’m not drunk enough
is a waste of time.
I carry within me a hypnagogic dawn,
maybe the insulation gnawed by rats,
maybe I’ll never be back.
Ha ha to the mating swans.
Ha ha to the sepulchral golden slime
that shines and shines and shines.
This party started long before I arrived
with the last of wacko youthful chatter,
a curious crew, prone to slam-dance depression.
What’s the matter? Don’t know, maybe so
much hilarity is a strain on us or at least
we like to boast in loopy communiques
to those who’ve seen through us
and love us for what they see,
maybe some trees, a packing factory,
some secretive birdie hopping about
with a grasshopper in its mouth.
I don’t know what I’d do without you
although that’s how I spend most of my time.
It’d be unbearable otherwise,
like a vacation without sleeping pills,
without some creaking rain
abating the granite’s breakdown.
Such a paltry gesture, my surrender.

Notes on the Poem

When you plunge in and start reading a poem, how much do you carry the poem's title in your thoughts as you navigate and absorb the poet's words? If you head into Dean Young's "Gruss" knowing - or thinking you know - what the title word means, not only will the poem surprise, but further investigation of the title's potential meanings will open up new avenues. You'll be heading back ... and perhaps marvelling anew. This note scribbler has a confession to make: she didn't know what "Gruss" meant, and decided to read the poem in the hopes that the word's meaning might be revealed therein. The possible phonetic rendering of the word brought "grouse" to mind, and that initial reading focused on comments that could be construed as complaints or peevishness, such as: "Whenever I'm not drunk enough is a waste of time." or "What's the matter? Don't know, maybe so much hilarity is a strain on us" Post first reading, the first of two definitions shed some very helpful light. "A rock that is finely granulated but not decomposed by weathering" not only explains the lines ... "without some creaking rain abating the granite's breakdown." ... but rationalizes the fragmentary feeling of the numerous clever phrases and images in the poem that don't seem to have the connective tissue of an entirely clear theme. Or maybe the narrator is crumbling, bit by tiny bit. The second definition is actually of the old high German term Gruß (with an alternate Swiss spelling of "Gruss"), which translates to a greeting or compliment. Is it possible the narrator is complimenting the subject of these lines: "I don't know what I'd do without you although that's how I spend most of my time." The idea that someone has ever so gradually broken down the narrator's stony defences explains the poem's final, rueful line.

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