Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Sunday at the Apple Market,” with its predominantly joyous mood and just the end suggestion of caution, fits the tone of Meinke’s collection The Night Train and the Golden Bird. As the title may suggest, the collection mixes poetry of darkness with poetry of light. The first twenty-five poems—many of which deal with sadness, loss, disease, and death—follow the heading “The Night Train.” The remaining twenty-five poems—including “Sunday at the Apple Market”—follow the heading “The Golden Bird.” Yet the two sections of the collection aren’t complete contrasts. Several of the poems in “The Night Train” section contain subject matter that lightens some of the dark views. Additionally, the dark tone of the early poems occasionally makes its way, sometimes unexpectedly, into those in “The Golden Bird” section, as with the concluding comment in “Sunday at the Apple Market.”

Although the poem focuses on a joyous slice of life, the concluding comment says, through implication, that such joy is not the norm. The body of the poem is light and carefree, with the sensory details clearly making the mood positive. The reader is left, though, to ponder the implication of the conclusion: Why is such an atmosphere rare? These people are joyous on “one Sunday afternoon.” They clearly have the desire and ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Yet the conclusion implies that time spent in this way is minimal. Mixing the light with the serious or the positive with the negative is not unusual for Meinke.

The poetic vision that inspires the simple and common...

(The entire section is 661 words.)