As many of you know I am back in school, which is why I am a bit behind in my blogging. It just dawned on me this morning after too much coffee, that I have been writing other things of interest in school so why not share it here? Here is my take on a poem by P.K. Page.
How Poems Work: Deaf-Mute in a Pear Tree by P.K. Page
Deaf-Mute in the Pear Tree
BY P. K. PAGE
His clumsy body is a golden fruit
pendulous in the pear tree
Blunt fingers among the multitudinous buds
Adriatic blue the sky above and through
the forking twigs
Sun ruddying tree’s trunk, his trunk
his massive head thick-nobbed with burnished curls
tight-clenched in bud
(Painting by Generalíc. Primitive.)
I watch him prune with silent secateurs
Boots in the crotch of branches shift their weight
heavily as oxen in a stall
Hear small inarticulate mews from his locked mouth
a kitten in a box
Pear clippings fall
soundlessly on the ground
Spring finches sing
soundlessly in the leaves
A stone. A stone in ears and on his tongue
Through palm and fingertip he knows the tree’s
quick springtime pulse
Smells in its sap the sweet incipient pears
Pale sunlight’s choppy water glistens on
his mutely snipping blades
and flags and scraps of blue
above him make regatta of the day
But when he sees his wife’s foreshortened shape
sudden and silent in the grass below
uptilt its face to him
then air is kisses, kisses
his locked throat finds a little door
and through it feathered joy
flies screaming like a jay
I am a romantic. That is why I am drawn to the lush imagery and the bold sexy language in P.K. Page’s ekphrastic style poem titled, “Deaf-Mute in a Pear Tree,” from The Glass Air: Selected Poems. This poem was written after she lived in Brazil, a time that she stopped writing and became a visual artist. In an essay included in this collection titled “Questions and Images,” Page states that she became interested in “The quiet stories of paintings. The understories of paintings.” I believe “Deaf-Mute in a Pear Tree” is a poem that is claiming that the silence of a painting, just like the outside appearances of an old married couple – can be deceiving.
Silence is one of the underlying themes of this poem; the silent secateurs, the finches’ song and the pear clippings all fall soundlessly. By adding indentations to these sentences, they emphasize the layers of silence. Or these dropped lines could be mimicking the leaves falling off the page. Perhaps if you snip away the leaves, you might find something hidden underneath the foliage; you may discover an older unassuming couple, with clumsy bodies and blunt fingers, who may surprise you.
This poem references the Croatian outsider artist, Generalic; but even though there is no such painting about a deaf-mute, I did find a painting titled, “Under a Pear Tree.” Generalic’s painting depicts an older couple, under a leafless pear tree. The couple appears to be uninterested in each other, looking in opposite directions in a cold barren landscape. Alternately, Page has set her poem in the spring, a time of love and procreation. Page uses many references to sex, she carefully selects words such as crotch, tongue and sweet sap. Even the sounds that are finally released; the screaming of a jay and mews from a kitten – sound orgasmic. In Page’s version of her couple in a painting, the man is not only in the tree, the man is the tree, his body is a golden fruit, pendulous in the pear tree, the words “pendulous, massive head, and thick-nobbed,” are all suggestively phallic.
When Page uses the repetition of the words, “kisses, kisses,” it is to convey a sense of urgency and abounding love. There doesn’t have to be sound to hear the joy in this couples’ relationship. The woman comes alive from the touch of his palm and fingertip. Love can be as silent as the soundless greenery falling to the ground. “What is man devoid of words?” asks Page in her essay, “Where can wordlessness lead?” To love of course! Silence in this poem is eliminated once the woman is seen by the man. This is when the stone dissolves and the silence is completely broken, just as our understanding of the depth of their passion for each other is revealed.
Page has been faulted as a poet that writes with “female whimsy,” but if writing about love in this vibrant way is considered too whimsical and feminine, then bring it on P. K. Page, in all its silent glory. I’m blowing you kisses, kisses because I believe there is nothing more romantic than a woman who is the sap in her husband’s pear tree. This poem cleverly unveils an understory of a painting that burns as bright as the blue of the Adriatic Sea.
Freake, Douglas. The Multiple Self in the Poetry of P.K. Page. Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne, [S.l.], Jan. 1994. ISSN 1718-7850. Available at: <https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/SCL/article/view/8196/9253>. Date accessed: 15 Oct. 2018.
- K. Page, “Deaf-Mute in the Pear Tree” from The Glass Air: Selected Poems. Copyright ©
1985 by P. K. Page.
“Questions and Images” Page P K, Canadian Literature Issue 41 Summer 1969 Tenth anniversary edition, online Canlit Date accessed: 15 Oct. 2018.