Here is another of Dawe’s poems, which I like to use for poetry study for early high schoolers.
One constant in a world of variables
— A man alone in the evening in his patch of vegetables,
and all the things he takes down with him there
Where the easement runs along the back fence and the air
smells of tomato-vines, and the hoarse rasping tendrils
of pumpkin flourish clumsy whips and their foliage sprawls
Over the compost-box, poising rampant upon
the palings …
He stands there, lost in a green
confusion, smelling the smoke of somebody’s rubbish
Burning, hearing vaguely the clatter of a disk
in a sink that could be his, hearing a dog, a kid,
a far whisper of traffic, and offering up instead
Not much but as much as any man can offer
— time, pain, love, hate, age, ware, death, laughter, fever.
- What is the title a parody of?
- The title locates the poem in the suburbs. What does this connote about the man?
- The word “variables” in the first line refers to what?
- When Dawe talks about “A man”, he is referring to what?
- What could the “patch of vegetables” be a parallel to?
- Stanzas 2 and 3 use sensory imagery (smell). Identify 2 examples.
- What is another type of sensory imagery used in the other stanzas? Quote an example.
- Stanza 2 describes the pumpkin. What do you think the pumpkin represents and why?
- What is the effect of the ellipsis (…) and the indentation in Stanza 3?
- In Stanza 4, what do you think the distant noises represent?
- The words “offering up” have religious connotations. How does this portray the man’s actions?
- What do the last 2 lines mean?
- How do you feel about this person in the garden? Do you feel sorrow, empathy, sympathy? Or do you just feel a kind of emptiness, nothingness?