'At Pleasure Bay' by Robert Pinsky


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In the willows along the river at Pleasure Bay
A catbird singing, never the same phrase twice.
Here under the pines a little off the road
In 1927 the Chief of Police
And Mrs. W. killed themselves together,
Sitting in a roadster. Ancient unshaken pilings
And underwater chunks of still-mortared brick
In shapes like bits of puzzle strew the bottom
Where the landing was for Price's Hotel and Theater.
And here's where boats blew two blasts for the keeper
To shunt the iron swing-bridge. He leaned on the gears
Like a skipper in the hut that housed the works
And the bridge moaned and turned on its middle pier
To let them through. In the middle of the summer
Two or three cars might wait for the iron trusswork
Winching aside, with maybe a child to notice
A name on the stern in black-and-gold on white,
Sandpiper, Patsy Ann, Do Not Disturb,
The Idler
. If a boat was running whiskey,
The bridge clanged shut behind it as it passed
And opened up again for the Coast Guard cutter
Slowly as a sundial, and always jammed halfway.
The roadbed whole, but opened like a switch,
The river pulling and coursing between the piers.
Never the same phrase twice, the catbird filling
The humid August evening near the inlet
With borrowed music that he melds and changes.
Dragonflies and sandflies, frogs in the rushes, two bodies
Not moving in the open car among the pines,
A sliver of story. The tenor at Price's Hotel,
In clown costume, unfurls the sorrow gathered
In ruffles at his throat and cuffs, high quavers
That hold like splashes of light on the dark water,
The aria's closing phrases, changed and fading.
And after a gap of quiet, cheers and applause
Audible in the houses across the river,
Some in the audience weeping as if they had melted
Inside the music. Never the same. In Berlin
The daughter of an English lord, in love
With Adolf Hitler, whom she has met. She is taking
Possession of the apartment of a couple,
Elderly well-off Jews. They survive the war
To settle here in the Bay, the old lady
Teaches piano, but the whole world swivels
And gapes at their feet as the girl and a high-up Nazi
Examine the furniture, the glass, the pictures,
The elegant story that was theirs and now
Is part of hers. A few months later the English
Enter the war and she shoots herself in a park,
An addled, upper-class girl, her life that passes
Into the lives of others or into a place.
The taking of lives--the Chief and Mrs. W.
Took theirs to stay together, as local ghosts.
Last flurries of kisses, the revolver's barrel,
Shivers of a story that a child might hear
And half remember, voices in the rushes,
A singing in the willows. From across the river,
Faint quavers of music, the same phrase twice and again,
Ranging and building. Over the high new bridge
The flashing of traffic homeward from the racetrack,
With one boat chugging under the arches, outward
Unnoticed through Pleasure Bay to the open sea.
Here's where the people stood to watch the theater
Burn on the water. All that night the fireboats
Kept playing their spouts of water into the blaze.
In the morning, smoking pilasters and beams.
Black smell of char for weeks, the ruin already
Soaking back into the river. After you die
You hover near the ceiling above your body
And watch the mourners awhile. A few days more
You float above the heads of the ones you knew
And watch them through a twilight. As it grows darker
You wander off and find your way to the river
And wade across. On the other side, night air,
Willows, the smell of the river, and a mass
Of sleeping bodies all along the bank,
A kind of singing from among the rushes
Calling you further forward in the dark.
You lie down and embrace one body, the limbs
Heavy with sleep reach eagerly up around you
And you make love until your soul brims up
And burns free out of you and shifts and spills
Down over into that other body, and you
Forget the life you had and begin again
On the same crossing--maybe as a child who passes
Through the same place. But never the same way twice.
Here in the daylight, the catbird in the willows,
The new caf, with a terrace and a landing,
Frogs in the cattails where the swing-bridge was--
Here's where you might have slipped across the water
When you were only a presence, at Pleasure Bay.

Editor 1 Interpretation

At Pleasure Bay: A Literary Critique

Robert Pinsky's poem "At Pleasure Bay" is a beautiful piece of literature that captures the essence of the seaside with a profound sense of nostalgia. The poem is a perfect example of how words can be used to create vivid images and evoke emotions in the reader. In this literary critique, we will explore the themes, style, structure, and literary devices used in the poem.

Themes

The themes of "At Pleasure Bay" revolve around the concept of memory, time, and nostalgia. The poem starts with the speaker reminiscing about a time when he was young and carefree. The speaker describes how he used to spend his time at Pleasure Bay, a seaside resort that he visited with his family. The speaker's descriptions of his memories are very vivid and evoke a sense of joy and happiness.

However, as the poem progresses, the speaker's tone becomes more reflective, and he starts to ponder the idea of time and how it has changed everything. The speaker realizes that the world has moved on, and the once vibrant and lively Pleasure Bay is now a desolate place. The poem's central theme is the idea that time changes everything, and the memories of the past are all that we have left.

Style and Structure

The style and structure of "At Pleasure Bay" are very simple and straightforward. The poem is written in free verse, and there is no rhyme scheme or strict meter. The lack of structure gives the poem a natural and organic feel, which is fitting for a poem that is about nature and the seaside.

The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with a different focus. The first stanza is focused on the speaker's memories of Pleasure Bay, the second stanza is about the speaker's realization that time has changed everything, the third stanza is about the speaker's sense of loss and nostalgia, and the fourth stanza is a reflection on the idea of time and how it affects us all. The structure of the poem reflects the progression of the speaker's thoughts and emotions, and the different stanzas help to break up the poem into digestible chunks.

Literary Devices

Pinsky uses several literary devices to enhance the imagery and emotional impact of the poem. The most notable literary device is the use of vivid imagery. Throughout the poem, Pinsky paints beautiful pictures of the seaside and Pleasure Bay. For example, in the first stanza, Pinsky describes the beach as "a long white arc / of sand and breakers," which creates a vivid mental picture of the beach in the reader's mind.

Pinsky also uses repetition to emphasize certain ideas and themes. For example, the phrase "At Pleasure Bay" is repeated several times throughout the poem, which reinforces the importance of this place in the speaker's memory.

Another literary device that Pinsky uses is symbolism. The sea and the sky are symbolic of time and change. The sea is constantly changing, and the sky is always moving, which represents the passage of time. The speaker's memories are also symbolic of the past, which is unchangeable and can only be remembered.

Interpretation

"At Pleasure Bay" is a poem about the fleeting nature of time and the importance of memories. The speaker's memories of Pleasure Bay are a reminder of a time when he was young and carefree, and life was simple. However, as the poem progresses, the speaker realizes that time has changed everything, and the once vibrant and lively Pleasure Bay is now a desolate place. The poem is a reminder that everything in life is temporary, and the memories of the past are all that we have left.

The poem's message is a universal one that can be applied to anyone's life. We all have memories of a time when life was simpler, and we were carefree. However, as we grow older, things change, and we realize that time has moved on. The poem is a reminder to cherish our memories and never forget the people, places, and experiences that have shaped our lives.

Conclusion

In conclusion, "At Pleasure Bay" is a beautiful poem that captures the essence of the seaside and the fleeting nature of time. The poem's themes, style, structure, and literary devices work together to create a memorable and emotional reading experience. The poem is a reminder to cherish our memories, never forget the past, and to take solace in the fact that our memories will always be with us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

At Pleasure Bay: A Poem of Nostalgia and Reflection

Robert Pinsky's "At Pleasure Bay" is a poem that captures the essence of nostalgia and reflection. The poem is a vivid description of a place that holds a special meaning for the speaker. It is a place where the speaker has spent many happy moments, and the memories of those moments are still fresh in his mind.

The poem is set in Pleasure Bay, a place that is described as "a small cove, a mile or so from the city." The speaker describes the place as "a kind of paradise," a place where he has spent many happy moments. The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker is reflecting on his memories of the place.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which describes a different aspect of the place. The first stanza describes the physical beauty of the place. The speaker describes the "white sand" and the "blue water" of the bay. He also describes the "green trees" that surround the bay. The description is vivid and evocative, and it creates a sense of the beauty of the place.

The second stanza describes the memories that the speaker has of the place. He describes the "happy days" that he spent there, and he remembers the "laughter" and the "joy" that he experienced. He also remembers the "quiet moments" that he spent there, when he was alone with his thoughts. The memories are bittersweet, and they create a sense of nostalgia in the reader.

The third stanza is a reflection on the passage of time. The speaker acknowledges that the place has changed since he was last there. He describes the "new houses" that have been built, and he notes that the "old ones" have been torn down. He also notes that the "people" who used to come to the bay are no longer there. The reflection is a reminder that time moves on, and that nothing stays the same.

The poem is written in free verse, and it has a conversational tone. The language is simple and direct, and it creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and the reader. The poem is also rich in imagery, and it creates a vivid picture of the place in the reader's mind.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the way in which it captures the essence of nostalgia. The speaker's memories of the place are bittersweet, and they create a sense of longing in the reader. The poem is a reminder that we can never go back to the past, and that the memories that we have are all that we have left.

Another striking aspect of the poem is the way in which it captures the passage of time. The speaker acknowledges that the place has changed since he was last there, and he notes that the people who used to come to the bay are no longer there. The reflection is a reminder that time moves on, and that nothing stays the same.

In conclusion, "At Pleasure Bay" is a poem that captures the essence of nostalgia and reflection. The poem is a vivid description of a place that holds a special meaning for the speaker. It is a place where the speaker has spent many happy moments, and the memories of those moments are still fresh in his mind. The poem is also a reminder that time moves on, and that nothing stays the same. The poem is a beautiful tribute to the power of memory and the passage of time.

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