Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 464
As with many instances of postmodern literature, this poem blurs the distinction between its “devices” and its “themes.” By the end of the poem, the devices become the theme; the metaphor, its function, its purpose, its value as a mode of expression, and its effect when taken to its extreme—all of these issues become relevant to Brautigan as a theme of metaphoricity. By giving an example of how a metaphor can get out of control if not used with care, he gives readers both an invitation and an admonition. They are invited to revel in the free-form playground of poetic language and succumb to the temptation of poetry’s extremes—and they are warned that if they do so they may lose sight of perhaps more “real” concerns. These other usurped concerns in the poem involve the narrator’s relationship with the woman in the apartment.
Brautigan uses language and metaphoricity to emphasize the strained relation between the concrete specificities of the apartment around him and the ambiguous distance he feels between himself and the woman. The narrator feels at once intimate with this woman—even if by simple proximity, one human being to another—yet he is also anxious about the alienation he feels from this “strange girl.” He seems, on the one hand, infatuated by the absolute particulars he can glean from the situation: her movements, her discomfort, her sounds, the fact that he is given the opportunity to observe it all so closely. Even though the repetition of her turning the water on and off reinforces the movement’s rote plainness (as discussed above), the simple fact of such a mundane action being afforded two whole lines in a short fourteen-line poem validates the action and gives it an magnitude it would not otherwise have. The focus of two lines on her turning the faucet on and off reveals the (appreciative) scrutiny with which he observes her.
On the other hand, the narrator is forced to reconcile the fact that he is a stranger in her daily life; he must come to grips with the fact that as close as he may be in proximity to the movements he so reveres, they are nonetheless foreign to him. Although in intimate quarters, he is so alienated from the sounds of her daily movements that they seem far off. The final image of the poem is a melancholy but reconciled one, as the narrator determines to observe her affectionately even if he must do so from a great distance. Her actions may belong to a different world than his own, they may be so far away as to be in a different city, but whatever city she lives in, all the eyes of that city are fixed on “what she is doing.”
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support