“Directive” is a sixty-two-line poem in blank verse. Because it contains elements of the lyric, the dramatic monologue, the narrative poem, the parody, and the meditation, it is difficult to classify. Its ambiguous form complements the unsettled, willfully contradictory quality that infuses the whole poem. The title, suggesting an important instruction or edict, is also ambiguous, since the various instructions given in the poem are neither clear nor easily followed; the poem is as much anti-directive as directive.
Addressing an unspecified “you,” with whom the reader may identify, the poem contains a series of imperative (or command) sentences. In line 38, however, two-thirds of the way through the poem, the narrator reveals a first-person identity. From that point on, the poem evolves into a confrontation between narrator and implied reader. The poem begins by creating the illusion of a particular time and place: “Back out of all this now too much for us,/ Back in a time made simple by the loss/ Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off/ Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather.” These slippery lines do not, in fact, specify a time or place; they start in nostalgia and end in an ominous reference to the human inability to fathom the past.
The contradictions continue in the lines that complete the opening statement: “There is a house that is no more a house/ Upon a farm that is no more a farm/ And in a town that is no...
(The entire section is 545 words.)