They're humorous stories now. To you, to them. To me sometimes. When the light would come through the trees and the leaves shimmered and sang. and His spirit moved among the earth. Over the waters. The sacred mountain over the small tract homes where God beheld me. I tell these stories now because it's best to deflate them, to let them sit and smolder - to see the ash settle.
4 thoughts on “‘They’re humorous stories’ by Ana Fandrey”
I used to be a terrible person. I used to bristle at religion and any person’s unambiguous telling of their earnest faith. I’m not that person anymore—thanks age, thanks experience. Ana’s poem is warm and, on the surface, simple… rewarding. Deeper attention may reveal something else.
Through several reads I’ve found an appreciation for the juxtaposition between images in the poem’s elegiac, crane shot—which functions as an almost narrative third person perspective over the subject matter. The poem mixes light (ephemeral) with song (art) and trees and leaves and water and mountain (natural, but “sacred”), and tract homes (a phrase that I read as human but limiting (in the context (shadow) of the imagination and faith and god and poetry and humor and nature, cookie-cutter tract housing is antiseptic, bland, an affront to art/creativity/craft.))
What are these now “humorous stories”? The thing is not told plainly. The speaker seems to be talking about the stillness of a moment (as evidenced by the crane shot.) But what is that moment, is it his/her faith getting them through something otherwise troubling? (The “To me sometimes.” implying that the unnamed action possesses some painful or lamentable weight.)
This perspective is supported by the final two lines of the poem in which the speaker literally uses her voice to “deflate” the unnamed action. Her faith—time and survival and Faith, Belief—is worn like armor. Armor that allows her to walk not through but INTO the fire (memory? offense?) where this unnamed action—this transient, fleeting, cast-off thing—extinguishes by its own lacking (of faith? of virtue? of righteousness?)
The juxtaposition continues: the speaker allows her patience, faith, kindness to sustain her while the unnamed thing—now literally a fire—burns itself out. “[D]eflate[d]” the thing (which once fancied itself powerful) now is weak, crippled, slouched, beside the speaker who stands tall, buttressed by his/her faith.
I really enjoyed this poem. Its strengths are many. I would love it to serve as an intro into something larger, something really emotionally raw. Something that challenges the speaker (and/or the poet herself, depending on how autobiographically aligned the poem is.)
My only suggestions for change would be to make lines 3 and 4 actively sing a bit more:
In particular: “would come through” and “shimmered” “sang” “moved among” strike me as a bit passive and past. Work to sharpen those verb phrases.
Great work, Ana.
This poem reminds me of someone reminiscing on a time of trial.
More mature and learned – the poet reflects.
I like the incorporation of God. It’s almost as if this is a reference to a spiritual development.
Talking about these stories is an outlet — containing them is too risky.
The first thing that strikes me when reading this poem is the imagery used. the description of “When the light would….and the leaves shimmered and sang.” along with “The sacred mountain” stand out to me along with that wonderful final line “to see the ash settle.” The simple detail in each description holds up both on a surface reading as well as further scrutinization.
Upon rereading this piece a couple of times I noticed a sense of longing and even a touch of sadness in the fact that the stories have become humorous and are no longer the wonderful tales that they once were. There is a melancholy tone in the end of the second line that strikes me right in the heart every time I read it. The fact that “it’s best to deflate them” than to revel in the original beauty of the stories, really sunk deeply in as I reread. The sadness and longing on those last two lines “I tell these stories….the ash settle.” are really given strength by the beautiful and loving descriptions in the three previous lines “When the light…..God Beheld me.” Along with the set up that these loving stories are now humorous in the opening lines, the ending of this piece conveys the longing and sadness excellently. There is also something to be said about the title’s phonetics in which the ‘they’re’ can be heard as ‘their’ which gives a sense of the stories not belonging to the speaker, which in a subtle way enforces the sense of loss that is felt at the change in the stories. The Speaker’s loss, whether an emotional or spiritual one is definitely conveyed in a talented manner.
I do feel that there are some awkward punctuation and line break areas. The first I noticed is in the second line “To you, to them. To me sometimes.” I feel that perhaps the period after “them” imparts too much of a halt in the flow of the poem. My suggestion would be for “to me sometimes” to be it’s own line in the piece, since it is such a strong line and to me a period holds the same pause as a line break. I feel that the same applies to the fourth line “and His spirit moved among the earth. Over the waters.” Again the second half of the line holds a poignant strength, really conveying longing, but I feel would be more effective as it’s own line.
All in all I was really touched by this piece and the sadness and longing it conveyed, definitely a strong piece and I can’t wait to see how it evolves.
When first reading the poem, it sounds like there is a hesitance at the beginning, as if the speaker is getting their footing. On the third line, they find it and begin to actually tell us what is happening, while lines one and two are more setup. Having said this, I feel that in the second line, ‘To me sometimes’ is probably the most important part of the poem, as it precedes and pre-empts what is to come. The ‘stories’ are ‘humorous’ to the ‘you’ and the ‘them’, but only ‘sometimes’ to the ‘me’ in the poem. This leaves me to wonder if perhaps the stories in question are at the expense of the speaker, or that they are not the fond memories that one may first assume, judging from the title and opening line. It’s also very interesting to see how they are only humorous ‘now’, not before. I’m left wondering why that is.
Line three opens everything up with a very specific image, no longer lingering on the vague nature of the opening, but we’re still talking about the past, ‘When the light would come through the trees’, implying that it doesn’t any more. This may be literal, as in the trees or the light are not the same, but more likely it’s that the experience of seeing the trees and the light is something of the past, part of the stories the character is reminiscing over.
After this, lines four and five embrace very religious imagery, talking about ‘Him’ and ‘God’ and a ‘sacred mountain’. These seem to be referring to the emotion, rather than the literal embodiment, of feeling God’s presence in that moment with that specific set of imagery. This is somewhat muddied by the final line(s), that these stories need to be ‘deflat[ed]’ and for ‘the ash to settle’. That seems like it may imply that the feeling the character had, when the light and trees were how they are not now, was not what they thought it was. The revelation came later, after everything had been given time to sink in.
This idea of leaving the true meaning of stories to sink in is quite interesting, as any story can have multiple sides and therefore can take more than the initial reactions to find the true meaning. I feel that here we have a specific commentary that the first reaction should not be trusted, that some time needs to be left before we can truly see what is there.
To step away from the analysis of the content and look at the structure of the poem, I liked the pace and form it took. The increase in line length allowed me as a reader to ease myself in, and the initial two lines were well chosen to invite me to do so. Some of the capitalisation and punctuation seemed odd, such as the full stop after ‘sang’ and the lack of capital on ‘and’ after the ‘sang’, and on ‘earth’. I’m not sure if that was a deliberate choice to counterpoint with the capitalisation of ‘His’. I really like the last line and think that, with the first two, it really gels everything together nicely and puts a pleasant twist on what may have become bland, religious commentary, whereas this is fairly thought-provoking.