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Stuck: Poems Midlife

by Rodger Kamenetz


Night Voice

You wake me with hard sounds. Basalt and ice.
Familial, but you have no faces. Effective device
if the only purpose is to frighten.
Or do you come to make me see?
I prefer daylight hours. In plain prose —
some say: too plain — I write, composing
myself and whatever message comes to me
until the line combs smooth enough to read.
In this line I will promise you the night.

The tone you borrow — Mother’s? Father’s? Dream?
My mother is dead. My father in the sleep
of later life, limps along near-sightedly.
Your voice — could it take such tone from him?
Do you question my authority?
— No, never, of my own the parent be,
but why so dreadful, why so choked and grim?
You’d prefer more jokes, but I resist
the manner though I mirror every taunt.
That’s justice, blow for blow. — But do you haunt
to teach me? No, I do it to exist.



These are emotionally powerful poems that speak to the condition of midlife, of being in the narrow place, stuck between the present and the future, between the demands of work and family, between the hope for joy and the desolation of loss. The pain of broken marriage, the tragedy of daily life, the struggle for identity, and the self-doubt of middle age are multiplied into passionate voices that rage, plead, joke, and shout. The language, tough yet dynamic, wraps itself around the images, which are at times deeply disturbing, at times strangely humorous but always honest, open, and real.


These are grim and meaty poems, carefully crafted and tight. The experiences dealt with are those that break people, but these poems are far from broken. For a slender volume, it is remarkably substantial.
— Marge Piercy, author of City of Darkness, City of Light: A Novel

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