Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The speaker’s opening imagery of the “weathering eddies” accumulating on the tiles of the Alhambra’s “courtyards and intimate tryst-rooms and policy chambers” conveys the focus in the poem, as in many other of Goldbarth’s poems, on the workings and networkings of the external or natural world, often including a scientific perspective and vocabulary; human artifacts, ranging from architecture and painting to music and poetry; the various spheres of love, whether in the family or romantic relationship; and society’s functioning. The poem shows that the world’s working is a combination of harmony and discord, of order and disorder. While the social order works for the speaker’s father in bribing the “copper,” inviting the boss to dinner and being sycophantic, and “shmoozing” the waitress for better service, it painfully fails for the son years later when attempting to recycle the same behavior. While the bull, the “ecoconnected” cattle egret, lice on the egret, and dungbugs exist in harmony, the Pimp Prince and butterfly fish have their colorful rivals, the speaker’s youthful love affair fails (though he has later gained important knowledge about connectedness in the romantic relationship), and the speaker’s father—who seems so “high” and demonstrative of “mastery” to the eight-year-old son—is simply one of the “counters/ in some global game, ‘Advantage,’ tycoons and brigadiers play.” Art, exemplified by the...

(The entire section is 438 words.)