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On "Season of Death"


Joshua Eckhardt

The poem ends with a surprising imaging of sight:

The eyes pursue you even in sleep and
when you awake they stare at you from the ceiling;
you see the dead face peering from your shoes;
the eggs at Thompson's are the dead man's eyes.
work dims them for eight hours, but then-
the machines silent-they appear again.

The eyes are everywhere, even more so in the following stanza. But the threat here is not a communist threat of revolt (at least not in this poem). In the last stanza, the threat of these omnipresent eyes is not strictly fantastical, as it is in the stanza quoted above: the eyes are still everywhere, but not just on eggs and shoes. They are on dying, impoverished people everywhere, "Along the docks, in the terminals, in the subway, on the street." And, as far as the poem is concerned, they will not revolt: they will die. But the consequence of this is clear, even if not directly stated. These eyes will continue to haunt you: they are everywhere in your imagination because they are everywhere in actuality. Whether this fear, in its own indirect way, also contributes to organized resistance to capitalism, I am undecided. Nor am I sure how productive it is to locate the threat posed by dying masses in the psyche. But the image is powerful.

Copyright 2001 by Joshua Eckhardt


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