Adrienne Eberhard, “Distance”
What is the space between this hut and that mountain
but impenetrable black, and frosty cold.
She is writing this at a table in the cabin,
spinning thoughts like threads, as if they can hold
her boys tighter, pull the mountain in, with their bold
tents blooming like flowers in the snow.
Can thoughts, or mad desire, shift the world
slightly, tilt ranges so their faces lower
to her own? Upthrust, tectonic forces, the whole slew
of geology sped up, so contour lines diminish
and lakes freeze, ice thickening to a deep blue
while those dark mountain peaks relinquish
distance; and this long night will finish.
Her writing is a thread to lure them back,
their faces filled with snow light, dolerite, the itch
of time alone, the cold breath of height. Face facts:
the contours between here and there are shifting. Pack, and ask, what is the space between home and out there,
between their beginnings and these beginnings, but a lack
of courage; what is distance but a prayer?
Adrienne Eberhard’s poem “Distance” illustrates the concerns of a mother whom is struggling to let her children find their way in the world. The voice of the poem insightfully narrates the mother’s worries through each quatrain and alludes to the theme of ‘distance’ through the structure, enjambment, pace and imagery. The contradictions between the irregular form and metre, and the carefully utilised rhyme scheme symbolises the mother and her yearning to close the distance between her and her sons.
The title immediately introduces the prominent theme of distance. However, it is a simple title that contradicts the feelings and emotions of motherly attachment and desire for togetherness. The mother’s uncertainty towards ‘the distance between’ is depicted through posed questions. However, the questions sound a plea for advice and guidance from a quiet desperation. The desperation to be able to simply will her sons back to the protection she provides. “Can thoughts, or mad desire, shift the world // slightly, tilt ranges so their faces lower // to her own?” (Eberhard, lines 7,8 and 9). This question is not a literal one as she is aware that it would be delusional to believe that one can simply think something into actuality. The last question and line of the poem, “…what is distance but a prayer?” (Eberhard, line 20) truly portrays that sense of uneasiness. The third person voice of the poem engages the reader through intimacy by revealing the emotions of inner frustration that the mother is sharing. It is as if she is confiding in us her honest emotions.
The intimacy is heightened through Eberhard’s own relationship with the theme of her poem. Eberhard is a mother and she wrote this poem from a personal experience of hers. In a short recording, Eberhard explained that when she was camping in a cabin, her eldest sons made the decision to camp on a range further up the mountain. As night came, a storm followed. This poem reflects her feelings of...