Poem of the Day: Geoffrey Nutter’s “Ghosts”


The first time I saw him he was standing
in front of the Iranian embassy
with his mother, or with whom I assumed
was his mother. She wore a black bonnet
like a black flower. He wore a black
frock coat and a beige collar high
under his chins. His linen
was unimpeachable. His hat
high and mighty. Mother and son seemed
to be communicating mentally, like flowers.
The next time I saw him was at the
horticultural park. His cravat was crisp
and severe as a lily. I followed him
out onto the street. He wore
a panegyric trifle in gold across his chest,
and a truffle with ruffles snapped
across his midsection. His shapely mother,
or who I assumed was same, stood beside him,
with a black lace parasol and a faded carnation.
A parade passed by, and I lost sight of them,
a parade led by a marching band
with plumed hats and flashing brass angles—
and in its midst, a float in the shape of a giant
gentleman made of flowers, his blue frock cut
from foxgloves by expert tailors,
and he loomed unsteadily above
the sparks and metal of the street.

Ghosts are not something we talk about in casual conversation every day, so I thought the exploration of the idea of ghosts was a really interesting topic. I really enjoy the way the author, Geoffrey Nutter, is able to create an imaginable yet unreal world through his poetry.
This particular poem made me think of an event that occurred in the past that Nutter experienced when he was younger, or something he imagined himself experiencing, because it is written in the form of a narrative. This poem seems to be about the writers personal encounter with a boy, and the description of how the boy is perceived by Nutter. In the poem, there are two main subjects: him and his mother.The two subjects are referenced in every couple of stanzas and stand out as the overriding metaphors that guide the entire poem.
Throughout the poem, the subjects are compared with flowers, which are real, living, and tangible and provide an interesting contrast to the ghosts, which are usually characterized as lucid, unapparent, and disembodied. The juxtapositions that arise from the comparisons of ghosts to flowers in this poem makes those lines really stand out. For example, the line His cravat was crisp / and severe as a lily is interesting because I dont think of lilies as crisp or severe, but that is how I would picture a necktie. Also, black lace parasol and a faded carnation stands out because black lace is very dark and harsh while a faded carnation is light and delicate.
The poem is strengthened by the overriding theme of nature that appears with references such as horticulture park and gentleman made of flowers. Furthermore, the poem references harsh elements like sparks and metal of the street, and the visual imagery and sounds this line creates capture the readers attention.
There is no apparent rhyme scheme in this poem, but there are a couple of rhyming worlds like truffle and ruffle, which appear in the same line, and plumed and loomed, which appear with a few lines separating them. I like that there was no rhyme scheme because I think if there was one, it may have distracted from the other more simple and powerful elements of the poem.
The poem is written in first person with an objective tone, which I thought worked well when pertaining to the subject matter of the poem, which is a very subjective theme. So there was no questioning from the reader about the speakers belief in ghostswe know from his narrative in this poem he believes they are very real and has literally or metaphorically experienced them.
Overall the tone of this poem made me feel like I was reading about something that happened in the past, which was a relevant setting for the subjects of ghosts. My favorite line in the poem was Mother and son seemed to be / communicating mentally, like flowers because it really highlighted the relationship between the subjects and enhanced the motif of flowers that characterizes this poem.

—Lizzie Anderson

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