Dealin’ with Death

Brian Henry works very closely with the idea of loss/death that is so engrained in the elegy.  However, he diverges from this almost immediately in that he is speaking, instead of the death of a loved one, of the death of himself (or of the narrator) and of the narrator’s family (especially considering that if Henry is dead, he certainly has some skills in writing poetry in that state).  

The second difference I found was that it seemed that Henry was not trying to “bring the beloved back from obscurity” (Powell 83).  If we put aside the fact that this is published and thus a way to immortalize the dead, Henry does not seem to talk well about any of the “dead” within the poems.  For example, in Quarantine 5 he writes:

“and I screamed and screamed as my son

had screamed not at her but for my son

and then of course she died

not in her sleep but with her eyes open”

In this poem, we can see how the narrator is not immortalizing or lamenting any of the three dead characters.  The narrator himself is screaming, uncontrollably (hence the repetition) and cannot seem to feel sympathy for his wife (earlier in the poem, he is in conversation with her, yet when he screams it is for his son).  This also brings in the idea that the son was never comfortable during his death.  The wife wasn’t either.  She died, not in the peaceful, unaware state of sleep but “with her eyes open” not only awake but conscious and aware.  

This seems to me to be the opposite of a realization.  The elegy seems to reach towards some moment of hope, acceptance, or at least understanding.  Henry seems to be, at least so far, mostly regretful and uncomfortable with death.

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