Wednesday, April 14, 2021

'Here Is a Life to Clear Away'

A kid in my neighborhood telephoned “634-5789” when it was a hit in 1966 for Wilson Pickett and was incensed when The “Wicked” Pickett didn’t answer. It was an adolescent lark, a well-intentioned one. In a similar spirit, I looked up the title of a poem by R.S. Gwynn, “348 S. Hamilton 27288” (Dogwatch, 2014), and traced it to the city of Eden in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. 

The poem is written in couplets, all of which begin “Here is” or “Here are.” Its first and last lines are identical: “Here is a life to clear away.” In between is a list of items found in the house at 348 S. Hamilton: “heights and weights on graphs,” “an ‘It’s a boy’ cigar,” “crayon marks and scrawls,” “Bing Crosby’s ‘Wabash Blues.’”


Gwynn’s trademarks as a poet include a ripe comic sense and technical virtuosity. The former is muted in “348 S. Hamilton 27288,” though the poem is witty. Hinting at lives lived through the possessions that outlive them is bittersweetly ingenious. We trail residue so long as we live. Gwynn has written an encoded eulogy.


I looked a little further and found a 2008 obituary for Dallas “Dal” Gwynn. He was a native of Eden. The author of the obit writes: “The friends he made there as a child and young man have been loyal and steadfast for more than five and half decades.” Listed among the survivors is another native of Eden, R.S. Gwynn, his brother.

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