The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Twins” is a forty-three-line poem written in free verse and loosely divided into four parts, within which there are several stanzaic forms. The title is not intended to help readers anticipate the matter of the poem; rather, it facilitates a moment of unanticipated recognition in the last quarter when one realizes that the twins alluded to are in fact the poet and the poet’s father.

Many readers will recognize the familiar division between a parent and child, where, as in this case, father and son rebuke each other for not honoring the other’s values. The father wants the son to honor mother, country, and right behavior, and the son wants the father to be less somber and to learn to enjoy life. This state of affairs remains the same until the father dies.

The past tense, used in the first part or stanza, reflects the poet’s memory of the problem between them. The rest of the poem is written in the present tense, which supports the “here and now” of his dutiful inspection of his father’s personal effects. He sees “dead shoes,” “dead cigarettes,” and the “last bed he slept in.” He is temporarily heartened to see that the manner of his father’s death (“in the kitchen at 7 am/ while others are frying eggs”) was not such a bad way to go, unless it had been his own death, and the poet then is faced with his own mortality.

That unhappy thought sends him outdoors, and the third stanza finds Charles...

(The entire section is 496 words.)