Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tyson's explication of David Baker's Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election
by David Baker
We have decided now to kill the doves
-November the third, nineteen ninety-nine--
who gather in great numbers in the fields
of Ohio, vast and diminishing

whose call is gray and cream, wing-on-the-wind.
I lean from the deck to hear their mourning
cry, like the coo of a human union.
They persevere as song in the last days.

Or is it the wind I hear this morning,
crossing the great, cold lake, the hundred dry
miles of fields cut down to stubble and rust?
The rain gauge, hollow as a finger bone,

lifts to survey the stiffening breeze.
The boards of our deck are a plank bridge
hanging over nothing, the season's abyss.
When we decided not to have the child,

how could we know the judgement would carry
so far?-- each breath, each day, another
renewal of our no. A few frail leaves
hurry now dryly in waves at my feet.

The doves have no natural predator,
so we will be their fate. We will prowl
the brown fields, taking aim at the wind,
or huddle inside in the lengthening dark.

It no longer matters who is right. Their cry
comes from both sides of the window at once.

The poem for my explication is Unconditional Election by David Baker (page 39).   On my first read through I thought the poem was simply about a rustic, maybe slightly dark perspective of somebody who lives in the country looking out from their deck into a field.  That was, until I reached the part about the child.  The entire poem was about doves, the weather, and a deck until, “When we decided not to have the child”.  After a few minutes of being totally lost on the meaning I read through the poem again and realized that I think the author is talking about abortion.  I believe there is liberal use of symbolism and metaphors in this piece which tie nicely it to abortion.

 Doves are often used to symbolize life and I think when the author says that "they" decided to kill the doves he is referring to abortions and killing the life of said dove.  I figured that maybe there was a major political significance to the date referenced in the second line “-November the third Nineteen Ninety-Nine-” The dash lines before and after seem to emphasize it.  Also with the name of the poem being Unconditional Election, the political connotation seems more apparent.  Unfortunately after doing some research on Google and history orb I could not find the significance of the date November 3, 1999.  The only thing I can infer is that either the author aborted a child on that date (or at least decided to), or that some kind of law or bill was passed regarding abortion.  I consider the latter because in the first line he says, “We have decided to kill the doves”.  As if there is more than one child.  This is what led me to believe it was some sort of law either state or federal that affects “all doves/life”.

Back to the symbolism, if the poem is about abortion, the author argues that the child/doves have no natural predators, except us; which kind of makes sense.  If you take natural things like disease, accidents, and so on, the biggest predator (with the exception of disease and viruses) is humans.  We kill each other and ourselves most frequently. Other species killing humans is relatively rare in comparison.

I like the last lines, “it no longer matters who is right.  Their cry comes from both sides of the window at once”  Nobody really likes abortion on either side of the argument and in the end whether the mother is for or against abortion, she will probably not be happy about the decision regardless of what is right for her.  This is also made obvious during the line about doves not having a natural predator.  It also seems to give insight to the authors stance on abortion being prolife.

The author sounds a little regretful of the decision though.  “everyday reminding of the no”

I really like the over emphasized pause in the second line of the 5th stanza before “breath”.  The way the poem reads its is as if the author is taking a breath before writing down that line itself.

Structurally every stanza is 4 lines, with the last stanza only being 2.

What really gets me is the ominous feeling the poem left me with at the start.  It has a very, kind of; sick feeling to it.  It’s as if the author is just staring off into the field considering the day and his property right before he leaves for a funeral.  Almost as if he’s avoiding the elephant in the room. Partly because it took so long to get to the crux of the poem.  I felt that this was similar to the feeling I get when meeting the twist in a horror movie.  Like the ending of the Blair Witch Project or the moment when Bruce Willis’s character realizes he is a ghost in the Sixth Sense.  With that said, the poem wasn’t really satisfying.  Kind of sad, kind of blah.  I enjoyed the use of metaphors and symbolism but overall I didn’t care for the poem itself. 

I really wish the author would have made it a little more clear to what the title and the date meant.  It was too vague for me to just “get.” 
*Note: Upon looking for the poem itself to copy and paste into this blog (instead of typing it all up) I found that the term "Unconditional Election was an actual phrase with a mostly objective meaning.  Here is the Wikipedia definition:  "Unconditional election is the teaching that before God created the world, he chose to save some people according to his own purposes and apart from any conditions related to those persons.

This definition makes sense for a prolife Christian person to have for this poem.  If that is the position of the author, it makes sense.

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