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Roo Borson's "Talk"

Updated on December 19, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Roo Borson

Source

Introduction and Text of Piece, "Talk"

Revealing disdain for her fellow human beings especially men, the speaker in Borson's piece, "Talk," which is featured in the third edition of The Norton Introduction to Poetry, draws classifications that defy common logic but reveal an amateurish fascination with human psychology. Perhaps this piece is the sad result of a Women's Studies crash course in bashing the male of the species!

This postmodern genre has blossomed for scribblers the ilk of Adrienne Rich, Carolyn Forché, Margaret Atwood, Eavan Bohland, and too many others. Borson remains one of the lesser known angry women, but her vitriol is none the less acerbic.

Talk

The shops, the streets are full of old men
who can't think of a thing to say anymore.
Sometimes, looking at a girl, it
almost occurs to them, but they can't make it out,
they go pawing toward it through the fog.

The young men are still jostling shoulders
as they walk along, tussling at one another with words.
They're excited by talk, they can still see the danger.

The old women, thrifty with words,
haggling for oranges, their mouths
take bites out of the air. They know the value of oranges.
They had to learn everything
on their own.

The young women are the worst off, no one has bothered
to show them things.
You can see their minds on their faces,
they are like little lakes before a storm.
They don't know it's a confusion that makes them sad.
It's lucky in a way though, because the young men take
a look of confusion for inscrutability, and this
excites them and makes them want to own
this face they don't understand,
something to be tinkered with at their leisure.

Commentary

First Versagraph: Losing the Power of Speech

The shops, the streets are full of old men
who can't think of a thing to say anymore.
Sometimes, looking at a girl, it
almost occurs to them, but they can't make it out,
they go pawing toward it through the fog.

The speaker is an observer of social mores and reports her conclusions using four groups of people and how they engage the act of conversation. She begins with the group called "old men"; she reports that these old men who fill the streets are simply incapable of thinking of anything to say anymore.

Perhaps because of dementia or simple exhaustion, these old fellows seem to have lost the power of speech as well as the power to think of something about which they could converse. However, when they see a girl, they are almost motivated to say something, but alas, "they can't make it out. / So they go pawing toward it through the fog."

Second Versagraph: Razzing Replaces Words

The young men are still jostling shoulders
as they walk along, tussling at one another with words.
They're excited by talk, they can still see the danger.

The speaker then tackles her second group of "young men"; she professes as little respect for this group as she does her first group of old men. To her, these young men "walk along" haughty and boisterous as they go "tussling at one another with words." They are not actually communicating; they are merely razzing each other, probably engaging in a mental one-upmanship.

The speaker claims that this group is excited by talk. Unlike the old men who cannot even think of anything to say anymore, these young men "can still see the danger" in their conversing, and it rouses them. The speaker allows the reader to fill in the exact nature of the "danger" they perceive.

Third Versagraph: Feministas Scope Their Victims

The old women, thrifty with words,
haggling for oranges, their mouths
take bites out of the air. They know the value of oranges.
They had to learn everything
on their own.

The speaker moves on to her third group, "old women." She exhibits her disdain for these old women by painting them as "haggl[ers] for oranges." She attempts a clever turn by claiming, "their mouths / take bites out of the air." This ugly image yields to the assertion that the old women, at least, know the value of oranges.

The speaker then clips logic by asserting, "they had to learn everything / on their own." All the radical feministas will bristle with pride of recognition of woman-as-victim, as the attitude foreshadowed in the first two versagraphs begins to complete its shape.

Fourth Versagraph: The Incompetence of a Tacky Image

The young women are the worst off, no one has bothered
to show them things.
You can see their minds on their faces,
they are like little lakes before a storm.
They don't know it's a confusion that makes them sad.
It's lucky in a way though, because the young men take
a look of confusion for inscrutability, and this
excites them and makes them want to own
this face they don't understand,
something to be tinkered with at their leisure.

Then finally, the woman-as-victim rubric is complete as the speaker laments, "The young women are worst off, no one has bothered / to show them things." These poor confused creatures put forth faces that resemble "little lakes before a storm."

(Take a moment: to try to visualize what a face would look like if it, in fact, resembled a lake before a storm! Would not a lake before a storm likely be calm? Would it show confusion? There you have it: the incompetence of this tacky image. Must have sounded clever to the scribbler at the time, but it lacks anything resembling meaning.)

Those young women are so stupid that they do not understand why they are sad, but the speaker knows they are sad because of confusion. What exactly are they confused about? Well, your guess is as good as the next fellow's.

The speaker then returns to the second group of young men, remarking that the confused sadness on the faces of the young women is good luck for the young men, who will be able to take advantage of these young ignorant females.

The men will never understand the women, but they will be excited by the women's stupidity and have endless fun tinkering with them, until these young bastards become like the first group of old men, who cannot think of anything say, but vaguely remember buggering young girls through the fog in their brains.

Women's Studies Doggerel

This piece of doggerel reads like an exercise from a Women's Studies workshop focusing on poetry and the beleaguered female. Dividing up humankind into groups and assigning them positions that demean the female demographic has become the main mission of the current "Women's Movement." This piece offers that divisive perspective as it denigrates each group it identifies. Of course, nothing about it can be taken as useful or helpful to humanity or to the poetic art.

Borson at a poetry reading

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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