Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mrs Midas - Carol Ann Duffy

A stanza by stanza commentary …

It was late September. I'd just poured a glass of wine, begun
to unwind, while the vegetables cooked. The kitchen
filled with the smell of itself, relaxed, its steamy breath
gently blanching the windows. So I opened one,
then with my fingers wiped the other's glass like a brow.
He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig.

I like the domestic setting of this scene and the personification of the kitchen … the smell of itself and the blanching of windows (The I is infered female – which is the case) … 'brow' describes a well-recognised swipe in clearing the window. Who is this person? ... is the pear tree significant?

Now the garden was long and the visibility poor, the way
the dark of the ground seems to drink the light of the sky,
but that twig in his hand was gold. And then he plucked
a pear from a branch - we grew Fondante d'Automne -
and it sat in his palm like a light bulb. On.
I thought to myself, Is he putting fairy lights in the tree?

Dark of ground drinking light ... nice reverse of usual thought. They have some communion with the pear … and the Fondante d’Autumne is a delicious melting pear with a sweet musky flesh and a light green slightly russet skin … sexual connotations ... was the pear chosen for the transformation into a light bulb … the turning on of a light … she thought he could be putting bulbs into the tree

He came into the house. The doorknobs gleamed.
He drew the blinds. You know the mind; I thought of
the Field of the Cloth of Gold and of Miss Macready.
He sat in that chair like a king on a burnished throne.
The look on his face was strange, wild, vain. I said,
What in the name of God is going on? He started to laugh.

A real shock is taking place as he transforms objects familar to his hands.
From the Internet a comment by Carol Ann Duffy … Miss Macready is Mrs Midas's old History teacher- she taught her about The Field of the Cloth of Gold- Mrs Midas is suddenly reminded of her when Midas draws the blinds. Cloth. Gold. History.'

His God is gold or Gold is God. He has changed. She wants an explanation but he taunts with laughter. Male dominance implied by ‘king’ and ‘throne’.

I served up the meal. For starters, corn on the cob.
Within seconds he was spitting out the teeth of the rich.
He toyed with his spoon, then mine, then with the knives, the forks.
He asked where was the wine. I poured with shaking hand,
a fragrant, bone-dry white from Italy, then watched
as he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice, drank.

She takes up the traditional wife position in serving … golden corn no doubt for golden teeth! She is also changing … ‘shaking hand’ and ‘bone-dry’… as she watches the alliterative transformation of a wine glass

It was then that I started to scream. He sank to his knees.
After we had both calmed down, I finished the wine
on my own, hearing him out. I made him sit
on the other side of the room and keep his hands to himself.
I locked the cat in the cellar. I moved the phone.
The toilet I didn't mind. I couldn't believe my ears:

Total realisation now … he takes a submissive position … she wants to spare the cat but doesn’t mind having a golden loo … and then he starts to explain …

how he'd had a wish. Look, we all have wishes; granted.
But who has wishes granted? Him. Do you know about gold?
It feeds no one; aurum, soft, untarnishable; slakes
no thirst. He tried to light a cigarette; I gazed, entranced,
as the blue flame played on its luteous stem. At least,
I said, you'll be able to give up smoking for good.

The negatives of gold … can’t sustain the body… Ah … but there is a positive here … nice way to give up smoking! … a sense of humour in the interplay

Seperate beds. In fact, I put a chair against my door,
near petrified. He was below, turning the spare room
into the tomb of Tutankhamun. You see, we were passionate then,
in those halcyon days; unwrapping each other, rapidly,
like presents, fast food. But now I feared his honeyed embrace,
the kiss that would turn my lips to a work of art.

Near petrified takes on its literal meaning!
Presents and fast food equated to the sexual fire that existed … but now she feared the kiss that would destroy (religious connection)

Tomb of Tutankhamun … there was a golden sarcophagus in the tomb as well as a dead mummy

And who, when it comes to the crunch, can live
with a heart of gold? That night, I dreamt I bore
his child, its perfect ore limbs, its little tongue
like a precious latch, its amber eyes
holding their pupils like flies. My dream-milk
burned in my breasts. I woke to the streaming sun.

She literally does not want to have a ‘heart of gold’ ... nor to have a child with only gold in it's eyes … nor, of course, her precious milk contaminated. The son-nightmare is broken by the streaming sun.

So he had to move out. We'd a caravan
in the wilds, in a glade of its own. I drove him up
under cover of dark. He sat in the back.
And then I came home, the women who married the fool
who wished for gold. At first I visited, odd times,
parking the car a good way off, then walking.

Well what to you do when you find you have married someone with completely alien priorities … well he has to live his life but you don’t want to be involved anymore – apart from the occasional visit through the woods ... so the relationship is maintained ... but perhaps not such a touching relationship.

You knew you were getting close. Golden trout
on the grass. One day, a hare hung from a larch,
a beautiful lemon mistake. And then his footprints,
glistening next to the river's path. He was thin,
delirious; hearing, he said, the music of Pan
from the woods. Listen. That was the last straw.

… and after occasional visits you found he had progressed deeper into his world … and the world of Pan = the God of the wild and famous for his sexual powers

What gets me now is not the idiocy or greed
but lack of thought for me. Pure selfishness. I sold
the contents of the house and came down here.
I think of him in certain lights, dawn, late afternoon,
and once a bowl of apples stopped me dead. I miss most,
even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.

What is most trying is the total disregard for her … total male selfishness. (Where she has moved to we don’t know … but if she sold the contents of the house she might have made a bit of money on all that golden stuff!)

She is reminded of him when there is gold in the sky.

She still has a fondness for her fool husband  … stopped by a bowl of apples … note Eve only stopped Adam with one, but she is stopped in her tracks by a whole bowl … golden delicious no doubt… she misses his touch … his golden touch … the actual physical contact of man  … very much a touching poem in everyway ... and perhaps she does have a golden heart and still love him.

Carol Ann Duffy


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