Southern Messenger Poets
Louisiana State University Press
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In this eloquent long poem, Claudia Emerson employs the
voices of two family members on a small southern farm to
examine the universal complexities of place, generation,
memory, and identity. Alternating between the voices of
Preacher and Sister, Pinion is narrated by the younger,
surviving sister Rose, in whose memory the now-gone family
and farm vividly live on.
Sister tells of her observances in day-to-day life in the
1920s and her struggle to take care of her father, grown
brothers, and Rose-"the change of-life-baby"-after the death
of her mother: "The hens had hidden their heads beneath /
their wings; they blinded themselves as I dusted / the
kneading bowl with flour sifted fine as silk, and so / I
disappeared as I sank my fists into it." Preacher feels
keenly the burden of running the farm and fears being the
last one to live on the place: "I was held fast there,
pinioned, not / dying, growing numb and light, wait-crazed /
and finally calm." Both wrestle with a desire for
independence and the duty to home they are bound to by
birth; neither marries or leaves.
Pinion is ultimately a wrenching elegy that Rose creates.
She is the one who escaped, only to realize, "I survive them
all, but I find I have become the house they keep."
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