Dave Smith’s “Southern Crescent” is composed of five sections varying in length from twenty-nine to forty lines each; additionally, a six-line epigraph introduces the poem and appears before the numbered sections start. The poem is an amalgamation of elegiac, narrative, and lyrical poetry. The epigraph is in fact a quotation from a railroad brochure dated 1891 and is an advertisement for the Crescent, a train whose route takes it from Washington, D.C., across the Potomac River and into the mountains of Virginia and other places to the south.
The poet-persona and his wife are traveling on this train in the wake of what appears to be the recent death of his father-in-law. The poem records descriptions of what the couple see from the train window and of their dialogue and thoughts. In so doing, it manifests a progress of their acceptance of the man’s death, which has evidently occurred because of his uncontrolled alcoholism. It is the Christmas season, a matter which further enhances the setting.
In the first section the poet sets forth that he and his wife are on a passenger train leaving Washington and headed south. He gives more than one dozen images to paint the countryside (that is, the universe of the poem) as a dismal, empty, hopeless and endless place, one populated by people who reflect their environs. He speaks, for example, of “slimy mattresses, asylums of fires,/ disemboweled dolls, beercans” and claims that those who are...
(The entire section is 581 words.)