Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Green of Breakable Things

. . . is the first chapter of six in Colleen S. Harris's whisperesque book of memory, geography-infused poems, The Kentucky Vein.  It is also the title of the first poem within this chapter, as well as the poem's closing line.  What does "the green of breakable things" mean? 

The opening lines reveal a hand-painted vase, owned by the speaker's mother and selected from her things when she died, shattering on the floor.

Before it shattered, the speaker displayed this vase for her mother's "anniversary," which, I assume, is her death anniversary, but hid it in her bureau for the winter.  Was it hidden only for the three-month season of winter?  Or does "winter" here mean the heart-cold remainder of the year when our loved ones are not immediately recalled?  And if so, why does the speaker self-inflict the cold by removing an object which would spark the memory of her mother?  Is it too painful to see the vase every day, either because of guilt or because of longing?  Or is it more painful hiding it?  Is the pain wanted as a type of punishment or necessary trial?  Was her relationship with her mother, and therefore this vase, based on obligation or desire?  

In the same lines where the vase shatters, flowers grow through the cracks of the wooden floor planks, through the shards.  Here is a bittersweet (hopeful or saddening?) image of life sprouting amidst, even through death, which echoes in the closing line: "I am the fresh-cut green of breakable things."  Though the speaker is alive and vigorous--"fresh green"--she is fragile from a line of fragility.  She is breakable.

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