From Argot by Fred Shaw, Finishing Line Press
Fred Shaw's poem "Scraping Away" is beautiful and alive in its swerve from the micro to the macro—the detailed descriptions of a new food being tasted for the first time, and the heady realization that there is always more to learn and to absorb in this vast world.
In its seemingly off-hand recounting of an incident at work, this is a poem concerned with class and labor, profit and loss, the behind-the-scenes reality which privilege ignores and upon which it depends. The poet of “Scraping Away” works the way Giacometti did, getting to the essence of an experience by working through what surrounds it, shucking the this-and-that to get to the “unscathed” gist, and revealing in the process “the far-off places of ourselves” which, paradoxically, are close at hand.
In a time when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, Fred Shaw’s poem reminds us that despite living in a “heaping world that needs us to believe/ we can be oceans,” the true richness of life only comes in “briny mouthfuls” and songs as big as Perry Como’s and as small as "clinking silverware." The people in this poem scrape away "the broken" to salvage the “sweet meat,” and find that “nothing ever tasted so good.” There is an evocative tension between the relishing of youth and new experience and a world that pushes us toward “the worn down, far-off places of ourselves.” But the real and simple things of the world—garlic and wine and moving to-and-fro—become, in Shaw’s vision, holy against potential scarcity and worldly pressures.
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