The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

David Ignatow’s “I’m Here” qualifies as an Armageddon poem, a poem of utter destruction, presumably resulting from nuclear holocaust. A forewarning broadcasts the onset of this dire event: “The radio said, Go to your shelters.” However, this message is delivered in such a low voice that the unnamed participants fail to heed it. They do not want to heed it; they do not want to face the reality that the end may be near. Standing paralyzed before the set, they are powerless to act and can take no steps to delay the inevitable.

The blast erupts with colorful drama. They (the “we” in the poem) watch as it colors the horizon, knowing that they are about to be killed. They cannot embrace the reality of their encroaching nonexistence. In the first stanza, the participants continue to be physical realities, people with faces, bodies, bones, flesh. In the following stanza, however, they begin as physical entities but soon lose their corporeal identities. In the poem’s most visual passage, they run, having their bodies drop away as they proceed, attempting futilely to beat the odds.

They gradually become parts of nature, the faceless, nonhuman nature that constitutes much of the physical world: “We could be the wind rushing/ through the trees or the stars moving out/ to the perimeter.” In the great chaos unleashed by the detonation of a powerful destructive force, identities disappear as the physical bodies vanish, melt down into...

(The entire section is 511 words.)