“Thumbed from below we bend at the knees in an ugly
Soulless wobble . . .”
These lines comes from my poem “The Various Silences Lie in Shadow.” I chose to include this poem as part of my reading in Farmington, Maine—though it is difficult to read—because of this collapsing giraffe, whom I shall call “Wobbly” (in light of my recent post). I had noticed Wobbly when reconnoitering the venue: a local bookstore filled with kids’ books, toys, puzzles, rubber dinosaurs, and other cool stuff. Wobbly Giraffe is a representative of the exact object I had in mind when I wrote “Thumbed from below we bend at the knees in an ugly / Soulless wobble . . .” To see Wobbly do just this, view his star turn here.
When I wrote these lines I believed I was creating a clear image, and that the reference to “thumbing from below” was enough to lead any reader to a memory of this common, strangely cruel, toy. But, when driving back to Orono from Farmington, Steve told me that, until he saw me use Wobbly as a prop during my reading (adding humor to a distinctly unfunny poem) he had no idea what I was getting at. The image was obscure. Which leads me to wonder, how many other “clear images” have I written with nary more than a nod to some past sense-experience with an object now totally obscure?
Without the experience of this object, how might a reader understand what it means to be “thumbed from below”? Could it be read as making reference to Hart Crane’s lines in “Chaplinesque”?
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Why do we locate social acceptance and aesthetic judgment in the thumb? Thumbs up, thumbs down. To thumb one’s nose at something or someone. Why are our opposable thumbs also oppositional?