Friday, June 8, 2012

Never Too Old - Janne Graham - Analysis


And today I learned
Birds don’t urinate
They have no kidneys
Urine and faeces combine in one.

I knew, of course
The moistness of the white drops
In the budgie cage
The foul smelling softness
In the chook house of my youth
And only yesterday
I swept, cursing, from the front verandah
The berry-stained black droppings of the currawong.
And yet I did not know.

Caged in familiarity
Simply scratching at the surface of my mind
Or flying, high-glossed, before my eyes
Dropping its wisdom:
Just piss and shit
Telling me nothing
Till I am fifty-four.

Janne D Graham 1992


Stanza 1 …

Fifty-four by itself has a certain command stating the importance of this age. A clear factual statement - and how many readers would know that birds do not have kidneys? The beauty of such short lines is in their direct concise nature.

Stanza 2 …

A clear illustration is presented in three observations that reflect different years … budgie (child) / chook house (youth) / verandah sweeping (54) … and each of these observations tells us something about the nature of the combined bird waste … that was known and obvious and lived with. Nice balance between the first and last lines of the stanza (knowing/not knowing)

Stanza 3 …

Again the power of the single word ‘knowledge’ … this is what it is all about … knowledge and ‘age’.

Caged in familiarity - such a clever way of saying that knowledge is latent in the context of the caged bird droppings … and that we can be so familiar with things that in many cases we don’t go deeper than at a superficial level … again the clever association with scratching and birds … followed by the vision of birds flying high-glossed (looking at the brilliance of the bird and not it’s droppings).

Then of course the dropping of wisdom in line with the bird’s dropping coming from the sky … as though after many years of droppings telling nothing there is this sudden realization (hopefully if hit in the face only metaphorically) …

And Oh shit - the discovery of something at the age of 54 … and something that has only just been thought about.

This simple poem has a clever and amusing take on ‘knowledge’, ‘age’ and ‘self-discovery’.

(Janne Graham is a local poet from Canberra)

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