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Comment 3 of 72, added on April 4th, 2009 at 5:23 PM.
This poem speaks to an underlying, yet nearly paralyzing state of mind that
many people experience when in high-stress situations.
The strength of shy’s imagery works to further her point that when people
are pushed to extreme limits, they busy their minds with incredible details
of seemingly non-related items as a defense mechanism. In fact, the entire
poem is a string of imagery as accounted by the narrator a mother bringing
her son to the police station to be finger printed.
She carefully and immaculately describes her attire to an amazing level of
detail. She even becomes temporarily distracted (and even sickened) by the
fact that her “lemon-colored whisper-weight blouse with keyhole enclosure .
. . clashes with the buttermilk heather in her skirt.” The fact that she
notices this, compounded with the notion that she is so taken by it seems,
at first consideration, somewhat inappropriate. How could a mother engaged
in such a nerve-wracking situation possibly spare a single brain cell to
notice the color of her blouse let alone compare it (in complex thought) to
other hues in her ensemble? And, on top of that, conjure up a concern over
She goes on to proudly take note that she has perfectly matched the
periwinkle in her sash to her “buckle-snug sandals” as well as the pink
details of her purse to her button stitching. Again, astonishing imagery,
down to the smallest, sharpest detail of stitching! But, this awareness to
finite detail seems outwardly superficial and amazingly narcissistic.
Again, given this woman’s current setting, her focus seems disgustingly
Even once they arrive at the police station and she is walking through the
metal detector with her son, she shares the triumph of noting that the
yellows of her blouse and skirt “momentarily mesh and make an overall
Could it be that this mother is a terribly insensitive, self-centered woman
totally and completely wrapped up in her own appearance? Although, it could
be, it is unlikely.
Instead, she seems to me a very human character whose mind is
short-circuiting from the weight of her current situation. It seems that
she is a wonderful example of situational irony.
We aren’t given much information about the reason that he son must be taken
to the police station—other than he must be finger printed. That detail,
given in the poem’s title so as not to take any focus off of the woman’s
behavior and psychological state, must be combined with her seemingly
inappropriate behavior in order to come to the conclusion that the
situation is quite serious.
In times of extreme, monumental stress, we crack. Our actions, thoughts,
and speech can become ironic in comparison to our situations. Many times
when people find themselves in surreal events, their brains flail around,
desperately searching for a detail or thought to create the illusion of
balance and control. It is an almost primal and reflexive action.
Clothing and personal appearance are important in society. Many judgments,
categorizations, and assumptions are made of people based on their style of
dress and overall exterior. So, it seems that the woman in this
poem—obviously in a state of shock, fear, and embarrassment related to her
son’s situation—may be trying to overcome her feelings of helplessness and
humiliation by focusing (to the extreme) on the flawlessness of her outfit,
a pairing of clothing items outwardly displaying the confidence and
together-ness that she so desperately wishes for in her mind.
Society can also judge people by the actions of their children. Being seen
as a failure as a parent is a horrible fear capable of consuming many
mothers. It could be that this woman’s shame is so great that she is
looking to hide behind the superficial armor of her (nearly) flawless
clothing, an exterior that she hopes will distract others from labeling her
The mood of this poem is ironically intense; it has an “on-edge” feeling to
it. The first person point of view is presented in a poem of blank verse
lending to the personal appeal of an incredibly raw human reaction.
Bekka from United States
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