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Z B McClure

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Deciphering Poems +++
By Z B McClure
Last edited: Friday, August 28, 2015
Posted: Friday, August 28, 2015

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Z B McClure

• Just Discovered This Wonderful Public Resource!
• Degenerative Brain Diseases - Causes & Cures
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How are we to understand the meaning of a poem?


by Z.B.McClure


She scratched the top of her head and squinted one eye. This doesn't make any sense at all, the young lady thought, shaking her head slowly from side to side.

"You look puzzled" her boy-friend finally commented from across the table in the small diner where they were waiting for their lunch to be served.

"This poem you wrote me?  I don't get it."

His smile didn't fade, but shone even brighter. "Which part don't you understand?" He looked into Emily's clear blue eyes and he felt his heart quicken.

"Well, like here at the beginning, where it says 'I saw a cloud the shape of moon'.

What in the world is that?" She pursed her lips together and he noted the way it made her cheeks dimple.

"Well, remember the old game we played as children, when we lay on our backs on the grass facing a cloud-filled sky?"

Emily nodded with a smile.

"And how I would see a cow, and..."

"And I would say, 'no, it's not a cow Bill, it's a..."  She covered her mouth to suppress a giggle.."it's a GOAT!"

"sO... were they animals in the sky?" He grinned.

"No, they were clouds for sure, but they did resemble a goat."

He placed his big tanned hand over her smaller pale one and raised his eyebrows.

"Oh, I see...the moon at first appeared to be a cloud?"

"Exactly!" Bill nodded. The waitress carefully set down their coffee on the white table clothe before them, took their order, then disappeared.

"The next line reads 'among the clouds it hid'. You mean the moon-shaped cloud was hiding?" She asked.

"Well, in poetry, it's all about point-of-view" He looked around them, and indicated a waitress with a tip of his head. "From a customer's perspective, what is the waitress doing?"

Emily's mouth opened slightly as she considered the waitress  moving from table to table. "She's serving customers...finding out what they want."

"Right. But from the waitress's perspective, what is she doing?"

"She's finding out what to tell the cook."

"Exactly!" His hand squeezed hers gently. "Both perspectives are right, but a poet many times chooses to emphazise only one perspective. That choice is neither right nor wrong, but must serve to advance the story the poem is telling."

Emily glanced down at his hand over hers and was glad they were here, in this moment. He had written her this very special poem, and she wanted to understand it. "So, when the line says that the moon was hiding, whose perspective is meant here?" He removed his hand from over hers and said one word, "Context".

"But if, you are speaking of an actual moon in this poem,  it would be the moon."

"EXACTLY! He smiled. But in the context of this poem, are we talking about the physical moon, the one that orbits the Earth?"

She thought through the rest of the poem, and shook her head. "The last line clues me in, that you're speaking about yourself being like the moon in some ways."

"Does the actual moon 'hide' among the clouds?" His eyes widened.

"The actual moon is not a living thing, so its hiding must be a way of making a simple comparison. The moon, you, only seem to be hiding?"

Bill nodded. "This is why there is so much misunderstanding in our world. People do not want to make an effort to understand what other people are saying, they want it served up at a window like a big Mac at the Donald's. Poems may be easy to understand, but it does take a little work on the part of the hearer."

"Does a real moon deceive?"

Bill chuckled a little. "You know the answer to that sweetheart. "And you know me well enough by now, to know that I am a stickler for truth. So the 'deception' mentioned in the second line, is other words a matter of mis-perception. It only appeared as if the moon fact, in the sky, it is the clouds that are moving."

"The clouds were shedding the moon? It was they, not the moon which left. The moon stayed its ground."

"And so the moon wasn't running or hiding." He continued. "By the way, that's not a moral judgment, just the facts. The listener has the burden of passing any judgment; they must read into the poem their own prejudices."

She smiled. Lunch was being delivered now. "Tell me more" she asked.


Emily swept her long deep red hair over her shoulders and gazed hungerly at the lemonpepper Tilapia on her china plate surrounded by brown rice smothered in butter, and green beans, all steaming, making her mouth water. "Wow, this looks absolutely DELICIOUS!"  

Bill smiled. "Yes, yes it does."

They closed their eyes together and after giving the Lord thanks, began to enjoy their time together.

"O.K., it's kind of like deciphering a secret code?" She asked, taking a bite of fish.

"You mean reading a poem someone else has written?" He asked. His eyes were closed enjoying the fresh taste of steamed green beans, their texture and aroma.

Their waitress aproached and asked if everything was all right before Bill had a chance to respond to Emily.

"Well, there are many reasons a person writes a poem I suppose. Sometimes it is to communicate a viewpoint quickly, and sometimes it is to get another person- the reader usually- to use their noggin' challenge them to, well, yes...actually engage in the process of deeper thought, to challenge them to consider something in a fresh light."  He beckoned to the waitress now, and told her that the fish was incredible. The waitress flashed him a warm smile and nodded.

"O.K., o.k." Emily responded, "then the second stanza... 'Then standing by, the cloud exposed'...Um, is the exposure good then? It sounds like it from the words that follow- 'so perfect round, and white..."

"You tell me Em, when you look up at the moon at night, describe it to me."

She gazed upwards and to her left for a moment before answering. "Well, unlike the clouds, it is crisp, and depending on the phase, IS so perfectly round, unlike the clouds which are less defined."


She continued, using her hands to express her thoughts. "It is  breath-taking!"

"Do you think I am talking about myself? Maybe bragging or complimenting myself? Tooting my own horn?"  He laughed. His eyes sparkled.

She leaned forward and smiled. "I know you  better than anyone else in the world- and you're not usually one to brag. Of course someone who didn't know you, or your poetry may be inclined to read that into your poem." She took a sip of coffee, and placed her had over his.

"So, you don't think I'm using the poem to express delusions of GRANDEUR? A HUGE EGO?"

Emily burst out laughing, tearing up, waving her hand. "Now, that depends upon what my value of a human being is. If I think a person's value is based upon their owqn acomplishments, or on superficial appearance, I would probably be put off by your word choice--on the other hand, if I believe each human has a LOT of value, value that is innate...value that is based upon the fact that a mind-boggling, infinately loving and good God created each one in His OWN image...why, then, I would not interpret that as you OVER-ESTIMATING your own value. Again, it's about point of view, right?  She caught her breath, still smiling.

"I wrote the poem for you sweet-heart, not as merely a commentary on myself, but as a commentary on each and every human."

Emily had to ask. "So, a poem has to be deciphered with the understanding that it may not even be the author speaking of himself? You sometimes take on different personas...?

Bill dabbed his mouth and took a sip of his coffee. "People are prone to judge a poem..or its poet, many times without taking time to really think it over first. We are living in an age where the sound-bite rules; where Face Book is a photo with short captions...even Twitter is limited in how many characters you can send at a time. Thinking takes energy, and frankly...there are probably huge swaths of humanity who are in the habit of not thinking. And there are a LOT of people in very powerful positions who would rather keep everyone in a perpetually hyped up, emotional state!"

"Do you feel like that moon?" She wondered. "Like you're somehow isolated, disconnected from the human race?"

Bill gazed into his beloved's eyes. "I feel like a pretend cloud." He nodded slowly. "Like I'm not a moon at I'm nothing special, like God didn't create me as anything greater than the dust under my feet." He swallowed, then felt her hand squeezing his.

"Sounds like a sad poem", she, "but I'm not judging you for being honest. No sir-ree. In an age where it seems everyone is tempted  to put on a tough act, and come across as 'dangerous' or 'scary'...I'm glad you aren't afraid to be genuine.  I for one, hunger for some authenticity.  So much around me is so over-processed and photo-shopped.

"Do you think there are other humans who stuggle with feeling alone and disconnected in this world?"

She nodded thoughtfully. "Our age is one of great paradox. We have more forms and more opportunites to communicate and bond, than any previous generation in HISTORY. And yet? Millions of people every day, feel so alone and isolated. There is SO much hatred in this world. A LOT of love in this world to be sure? But  lots of pretend clouds."

They paid their bill, and left together, hand in hand. No one noticed them leave. The waitress smiled as she picked up the generous tip left on their table, then in the hustle and bustle,  promptly forgot  ever having seen them. Another couple quickly occupied the space where they had just been. The poem lay on the table, until the woman's husband absentmindely crumpled it up  and tossed it to the floor. 
And the clouds rolled in.
But some of them were moons.



 Copyright 2015 ZBM 






Reader Reviews for "Deciphering Poems +++"

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Reviewed by Z McClure 8/28/2015
Thank you all for reading and commenting on my new poem Pretend Cloud! I am blessed by your willingness to spend time enjoying and responding to my writings. Our hope is often to be understood perhaps, but we are not discouraged when that does not happen. It's fun to write

~ a fellow human and poet Zach
Reviewed by Ronald Hull 8/28/2015
Everyone has a point of view. When they read a poem, it is filtered through their point of view and tends to relate to their perspective. That perspective may not be what the author intended. Happens all the time and the poet should not get upset if his or her poem misunderstood.


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