“Unconscious,” a poem in free verse, consists of fifty-five lines. The title refers to that category of the mind outside conscious experience; the original French suggests both “unacquainted” and “unconsummated” as well. The poem is inexact in its subject matter: The poetic voice moves in and out of the poem with no consistent pattern, and changing points of reference, broken thoughts, and the absence of punctuation further complicate the reader’s comprehension. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the protagonist of the poem is the narrator, although both reader and narrator share the experience as more than implicit observers. Such lack of clarity lends itself to the dreamlike atmosphere of the text.
The poem begins by reminding readers that the incident about to be described, whether real or imagined, has already occurred. The first ten lines establish a memory of an “odd attempted abduction” of a fourteen-year-old girl standing in an elevator. Line 3 begins the idealization of the girl (“Hey a star and yet it’s still broad daylight”) that continues throughout the poem. Lines 4-10 emphasize the early pubescence of the girl that entices the narrator. Her age is described as “Four more years than fingers,” and her breasts, which the narrator imagines he sees bared, resemble “handkerchiefs drying on a rosebush.” These images are important in establishing the virginal representation of the girl and are contrasted by the...
(The entire section is 515 words.)