"nobody loses all the time"
i had an uncle namedTry reading this aloud so that you can appreciate it properly, and just see how it sounds when you try it in a southern American accent! (Which I do, badly!)
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle Sol could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself which
may or may not account for the fact that my Uncle
Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and be
my Uncle Sol's farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when
my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died and so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner
or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who'd given my Uncle Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scrumptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and
i remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol's coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
(and down went
and started a worm farm)
How often do you get a poem that works like a joke complete with a punchline? What fun! Yet really - isn't this a tragic story about despair and suicide?
The story is about poor old Uncle Sol, who failed in every venture he tried, but the speaker emerges just as clearly as her subject. (I said "her" - why do I see a woman?)
The almost total lack of punctuation gives the impression of a speaker who is just not pausing for breath. Where you'd expect a full stop or a pause the speaker uses expressions like "which / may or may not account for the fact that", "be/ it needlessly/ added" - no-one else is given the room to elbow in on this discussion!
It's a tremendous, almost childish enthusiam that keeps this speaker going. I love the throwing in of little asides that have nothing to do with the main drift of the story (about the song, the record player) as the speaker gets diverted by particular memories, or apologises for a "high falootin phrase".
The line "the auspicious occasion of his decease" is amusing - when do we ever call a death an auspicious occasion? And the words "scrumptious" and "splendiferous" aren't exactly the ones we'd expect to describe a funeral.
I love poems that tell a story, and poems where you can hear the speaker's voice - I guess that comes from being a great fan of short fiction - so I find this poem very satisfying. I tried using a similar voice for a short story.
Picture is Cumming's Self-Portrait with Sketch Pad.