Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Green Orchid

Anecdotes have triggers.

Often I'll hold onto my stories, sharing them with select individuals at a time that suits me, but some stories must be told straight away, to anyone who will listen.  If all else fails and there is nobody to communicate with, individuals will begin muttering to themselves, "I can't believe that just happened...she swallowed the whole thing!" 

Then there are the anecdotes that are flourished, as if from a hat, at parties and during the 'getting to know you' stage of a friendship.  These stories come with embellishments and have likely been told many times before.  They involve flamboyant gestures and, occasionally, song. 

Parents and teachers will be familiar with the forced stories.  These are the anecdotes we tell when we are made aware that a sparse description of events is not sufficient and we dredge through the details in the hope of offering a tidbit that will impress the other just enough so that they will leave us alone.  These stories can also contain 'not-quite-truths'.  You'll hear these falling from the lips of children when they haven't completed a task, from spouses when they haven't completed a task, and criminals when they have completed a task which wasn't theirs to complete. 

The definition of anecdote is a fraught one.  Many would contend that anecdotes should be interesting or amusing however there are many who use the cover of 'anecdote' to smuggle Trojan Horses filled with dull particulars of their sleeping habits or the particular manner in which a counter assistant filled their grocery bag.  Doubtless for every hundred thousand listeners who would write this off as unanecdotal, there will always be one who wishes to pursue the story further, hanging on the details and asking whether the counter assistant had a lazy eye and a creased shirt because they might have met this shop assistant and how very interesting because their bags had been filled with great care, in particular the delicate items such as the Danish loaf which everyone knows is prone to crushing and he actually gave it a bag of its own and if that doesn't show customer service, they don't know what we're expecting and perhaps the shirt was creased because they don't believe in wasting energy on ironing when the earth is in the grip of a fuel crisis and really, when there is the capacity to produce iron-free shirts, why aren't we all wearing them...

Anecdotes, in poetry, tend to live in the narrative form.  I've mentioned before that this is the superior form and will brook no argument on this point.  As evidence, here is a portion of Two Deaths in the Bronx by Donald Evans.


The sodden stretches of the months of pregnancy 
Had had but one green orchid; 
That was their sole pauseful 
And suspended moment of beauty. 
He had brought it home to her at dawn 
On the day before Christmas, 

And he was a little drunken as he dropped it on her bed. 
But it was a green orchid, 
And pleased she took it unquestioningly. 
He had bought it with many more 
Hours and hours earlier for the girl, 
Who was then amusing him. 
In some way it had got into his pocket — 
Or, perhaps, it was his buttonhole. 
He had noticed it as he entered the abode of maternity, 
And with his quick sense of values 
He offered it in a tenderness. 
He would have sent her orchids every day, 
But he had no money to spare. He must live. 

He was spending the nine months with her — 
He had promised to do that — to take care of her 
Until their child was born — 
Then she would go away with the child. 




Abdulicious said...

I love NYC and the Bronx so this poem was always going to be a good read.