Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Arnold Lehman "Eyes of Seagulls"

Arnold Lehman has a number of poems featured in the third issue of Canteen Magazine, which can be viewed online, as well as in print.
Upon first reading the title I anticipated the poem to literally be about seagulls in some way, however, it has a much deeper meaning than that. It starts off referring to the eyes of seagulls as "violet, lulling and serene," but the rest of the poem talks about a woman who has been through a significant amount of trauma in her life. Lehman writes that she "birthed five and more that did not live" and also details the woman's memory of being sexually abused as a child and her "mother hid her." These details are shocking yet the poem flows so smoothly that it could be described as beautiful, in terms of style, clearly not the context. It is interesting how a poet is able to manipulate the style in order to generate a particular feeling amongst the reader, for despite the sadness I felt for the woman, I also thought the poem was wonderfully constructed.
The seagulls are never mentioned again, other than in the beginning. However, at the end, the narrator details the woman's children trying to "kiss her violet eyes" as they "tug on her sleeve" during the holidays. It allows us to draw the assumption that the woman is not affectionate with her children as a result of the trauma from having miscarriages, as well as being abused as a child. Perhaps referring to her eyes as violet, just like those of the seagulls, Lehman is trying to convey that she is putting on an act and attempting to convey a sort of "serene" persona, when in actuality, she is broken inside.
-Julie Kelly


Popped said...


This sounds like a really well crafted poem to be able to do what you say it does. I never thought of seagulls being in anyway connected with anything serene, or violet. Mostly the only thing I think of connected with seagulls is the term "rats with wings," but it sounds like this poem paints them in a much nicer light.
When I think of violet eyes, I think someone has a black eye, a bruise, as if he or she was punched in the face. I wonder if, among all the other hardships this woman faces if she isn't still being abused.
I like the image, though, of the children trying to kiss her and tugging at her sleeve.

Popped said...

I'd be very interested in reading this poem and I'm particularly curious about the use of "Seagull eyes" in the title. Seagulls are birds that are constantly on the move and don't necessarily have a fixed home; perhaps, in a similar fashion, the woman has had all these experiences but has no place to call home. Since seagulls are also scavengers, they have to do what they must to survive. Overall, a rather peculiar bird that has the combination of beauty and distaste, (living by the ocean yet wanders through garbage dumps) and an unusual but intriguing choice for a subtle underlying symbol.
----Jen G.