The Harp

When he was my age and I was already a boy my father made a machine in the garage.

A wired piece of steel with many small and beautiful welds ground so smooth they resembled rows of pearls.

He went broke with whatever it was.

He held it so carefully in his arms.

He carried it foundry to foundry. I think it was his harp, I think it was what he longed to make with his hands for the world.

He moved it finally from the locked closet to the bedroom to the garage again where he hung it on the wall until I climbed and pulled it down and rubbed it clean and tried to make it work.

As you can see, Weigl end-stops stanzas with each memory, giving his voice a plaintive, almost halting quality. Time lapses in the white space of any stanza, but when stanzas are end-stopped as above, they seem to move more slowly — almost deliberately. Weigl uses this to good effect, probing his epiphanies about his father as if he sits across from us and relates the story of "the harp."

Weigl doesn't use formal stanzas, uniform patterns of lines as in "What the Waitress Sees." I use such stanzas in my free verse because they help me discover the poem (the same way meter and rhyme do in formal work). But Weigl's lyric is the better for lack of such structure. It would undercut the epiphany of the memories and make them seem preconceived.

Here's Judith Kitchen's poem from her book Perennials (Anhinga Press, 1986) that uses run-on uniform stanzas:

WALKING ON ICE We walk out testing the surface, the currents beneath. You push off and slide, your body young and gentle. This could easily be another time — the wind reaching for my scarf, other fingers on my waist, skates glinting in the late afternoon. But here, at the intersection, the ice sighs. Under our feet, under our children's feet, the shiver, star-shaped, spreads the length of the canal.

Kitchen's stanzas slip easily into each other to recreate the tension of "walking on ice," her title. (She even indicates the slippery ice visually in the third line of her poem, leaving white space between the words "push" and "off.") You usually don't find run-on stanzas used in formal ways. But in this poem, the run-ons suggest ice and the tercets, or three-line stanzas, the elegance of skating. They rub against each other, and shards fly as if from skates of the poet's youth.

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