Paul Zimmer’s “The Eisenhower Years” consists of four stanzas of varying length, unrhymed and of irregular meter, that offer a socially representative picture of the author’s poetic persona, Zimmer, over the course of a typical day in his young adult life during the 1950’s. Although this period, mostly under the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a halcyon time of national prosperity in the United States, in the view of many it was also a period of cultural blandness and conformity, and of ignorance and complacency with regard to such continuing social ills as racism and misuse of U.S. power abroad. In this light, Zimmer instills the poem with a cautionary tenor—one that it introduces as early as the opening line, if only on the personal level of its protagonist—as Zimmer, “Flunked out and laid-off,” puts in a seemingly typical day working at his father’s shoe store, “Zimmer’s Shoes for Women.”
The inherent if unacknowledged pain of the speaker’s directionless and dependent life is underscored by the substance of his work: “the feet of old women,” which “groan and rub/ Their hacked up corns together.” The women come “in agony” to the speaker, who in the reductio ad absurdum of his life, “talks to the feet,/ Reassures and fits them.”
The sense of the speaker’s aimlessness mounts in the second stanza as he returns home from work habitually to check the mail for the ironic “greetings...
(The entire section is 507 words.)