"Probability of an Event" by Jane Miller read by Deborah Poe by Deborah Poe published on 2013-04-10T13:47:04Z from Wherever You Lay Your Head (Copper Canyon Press 1999) I had some analysis of the poem from 2006, so I include it here... The poem “Probabity of an Event” (3-5) is an important poem for the book and has two sections numbered simply 1 and 2. The lyric quality echoes the intimate, quiet meditation of “The Flying Fish and the Lily of May.” But “Probability of an Event” overlaps this meditation like a palimpsest with the violence of a bombed Japanese village. Musicality of the lyric engages with three beat stresses in the first several lines: The best place to be is in one of the restaurants north of the bridge on the west side along the river, or on a chartered pleasure boat. Skiffs with single lanterns wander among the cruisers 3 The three beat stresses per line operates on a musical level first like the swaying rhythm of the first poem in the book. Shifts to iambic pentameter occur after these lines, “selling food and drink. Under the chill,” and mark an overall shift in the poem rhythmically and also in diction from a feeling of warmth to this “chill.” Miller directly references an image-driven appeal to sensation “with the sensation felt as a child / moving through the great open windy world / of mutilated statues and spoiled food / and never understanding” (3). It is with images like these that the poem hints in the first section at what is to come. Other images, such as “the burning of swamp gas / and glow of luminescent fungi” appeal to sensation but also carry intellectual curiosity. Why luminescence? Why swamp gas? The reader is left to wonder in the first stanza whether these are natural poisons or unnatural poisons that the second stanza will more explicitly bear. In the second stanza, “stalls of bear, monkey, boar, and deer, / and otter and fox and wolf and weasel / appear along the quay” in what is most certainly an unnatural occurrence during the “chemistry of five AM.” Linguistic disruption resists an overarching truth or history in singularity of a dominant rhetoric (that ordered the bombing). “It is legend that creates place” the first section tells us. But legend comes to embody direction representation, mimesis—a poor imitation of the real human lives depicted of this moment. “The day” of “The Flying Fish and Lily of May” is different than this day: Day is a model of the world so different from the phantom seen before…5 The day of the flying fish and the lily of May is a trace in history. Matters become “more and more violently atomized” (5). There is a profound multiplicity in meaning at this point—atomized as breaking into small fragments and atomized in terms of bombardment by nuclear weapons. “Probability of an Event” ends: The figures of the day in a phenomenal chain reaction. The legend is in the light. 5 The poet returns to legend from the first section and through the word’s repetition. This repetition infuses multiplicity in meaning of the word causing us to question legend and light. Using the word legend reduces this disaster to a spectacle rather than looking at the crisis in terms of its time signature, its associated memories. The legend is the light of the targeted explosion rather than the memories or memory of these figures of the day.