National Poetry Month 2013, Week Three: Don Share’s “Wishbone”
April 20, 2013
Not the tenure-track kind of poet one finds in universities, but the sort that is actively engaged in poetry – as an editor, as a translator, a critic, and as a writer – on a daily basis. He was poetry editor of Harvard Review, the Partisan Review, and a senior editor of Poetry magazine.
He’s published three books of his own poems, translated Seneca and Miguel Hernandez, and compiled two books of verse by the great Basil Bunting, as well as co-editing The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of “Poetry” Magazine.
Share’s own poems are pithy, witty, and verbally gymnastic. Occasionally he takes a pun or a rhyme a little too far until it snaps back or more likely turns inside out. He’s fascinated by words and how they transform each other in the music of varying line length and tone.
And he is always aware, as poet Tom Sleigh writes in a blurb for Wishbone, Share’s latest collection, “of how daily life refuses to cohere into a consoling pattern is beautifully mirrored by his conviction that language itself signals a fall from grace and unity and emotional wholeness.”
The title poem, “Wishbone,” Share said in an interview, “is in the voice of a dying cat, and from his perspective, human beings are in charge, making godlike decisions in the face of which he feels powerless, though this is a tough cat and he suffers no loss of nobility or character even at the very end of it all. Needless to say, a cat can’t talk; I wanted to give one language for a short spell so he could speak his piece. A bit of tragicomic relief, you might say.”
Here is Don Share’s poem “Wishbone”:
I have a bone to pick
with whoever runs this joint.
I don’t much like
being stuck out in the rain
just to feed on the occasional
vole or baby rabbit
and these wet weed-salads
confound my intestines.
A cat can’t throw himself
into the Des Plaines River,
not even in the luscious fall.
I get yelled at in human
language every single day
for things I can’t begin
to comprehend, let alone change.
But I go on cleaning myself –
why shouldn’t I? –
and so I think I smell sweet,
even though I suspect otherwise.
I wouldn’t harm a fly normally,
but why doesn’t anybody
take care of me? How am I
supposed to know that it’s Easter,
that I’m not allowed to die
in my own bed, and that neither prong
of this wishbone is meant for me?