G. C. Waldrep‘s “The Limits of Metaphor” first appeared in Issue 76 (Summer 2011) of the minnesota review. Since then, Waldrep has put out another collection of poems, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, with John Gallaher (2011), and he is also co-editing two anthologies, one on the life and work of Paul Celan and the other on postmodern approaches to the pastoral in contemporary poetry. Waldrep is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Bucknell University. He is the author of three additional full-length collections of poems: Goldbeater’s Skin (2003), Disclamor (2007), and Archicembalo (2009), winner of the Dorset Prize. His work has appeared in many other journals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Harper’s, The Nation, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, New England Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, and Tin House, as well as in Best American Poetry 2010. At Bucknell Waldrep teaches creative writing, directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, serves as Editor-at-Large for the Kenyon Review and is the Editor of West Branch. He has been selected as the first recipient of the Margaret Hollinshead Ley Professorship in Poetry and Creative Writing.
THE LIMITS OF METAPHOR
When you think about it, a lot of things
used to get made in America, but now they’re not:
bowling balls and bowling pins,
wire hangers, the machines that mix milkshakes,
the enormous bits mining drills use.
Somewhere, probably in the vicinity of
Danbury, Connecticut, there was once a factory
that made whistles, the metal kind
with the little balls inside.
And it’s closed now, or else it’s become
a warehouse, or some ultra-chic mini-mall
the local economy can’t really support.
There were people who worked there,
and now they don’t. Some of them were lovers.
Some of them liked the work, and some of them
did not. A few tried to make it
more interesting than it must have been:
See, this is the part where the igloo
dives into the mountain, and this is the part
where great tropical birds come flooding into the sky
at the hour of the setting sun….
Love is like that—
The cracked sidewalks, the supermarket aisles,
product testing and market share.
The elm trees dying in the city parks.
The suspicion that somebody is making something
better, something cheaper, somewhere else.