The Girls

Karen Solie

copyright ©2009 Karen Solie

They stayed at home. They didn’t go far.
Trends do not move them.
From picture windows of family homes

they cast wide gazes of manifest pragmatism:
hopeful and competent, boundlessly integrated,
fearless, enviable, eternal.

Vegas, Florida, Mexico, Florida, Vegas.
With children they travel backroads
in first and last light to ball fields

and arenas of the Dominion.
We have no children. We don’t own,
but rent successively, relentlessly,

to no real end. The high-school reunion
was a disaster. Our husbands got wasted
and fought one another, then with an equanimity

we secretly despised, made up over
anthem rock, rye and water. Our
grudges are prehistoric and literal.

It seems they will survive us. The girls
share a table, each pitying the others their looks,
their men, their clothes, their lives.

Notes on the Poem

How do the tercets comprising Karen Solie's "The Girls" subtly contribute to the sentiments with which the story is told in this poem? Let's take a look at this wry and intriguing selection from Solie's 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize-winning collection "Pigeon." Tercets are three-line stanzas which can be rhymed (in different configurations) or unrhymed, as Solie's are in this poem. In Solie's hands, the march of tercets is brisk, it seems, made more so by the fact that each stanza is further subdivided into short, crisp sentences. From the outset ... "They stayed at home. They didn't go far. Trends do not move them.". the poem sounds tense, peevish. These are terse tercets, don't you agree? While directing this tone of annoyance at the people with whom she's sharing this disastrous high-school reunion, the narrator offers some self-deprecating despair, too: "We have no children. We don't own, but rent successively, relentlessly, to no real end." As that excerpt illustrates, the tercets aren't tidy. The seeming suppressed rage - which could also be read as tight-lipped humour, mind you - is not contained within each three-line unit, but spills from stanza to stanza. Even though the resentful feelings do end neatly enough at the end of the poem, in a full stop at the end of a third line, there is definitely a sense that those grudges will indeed survive ... and spill further into new, yet to be blurted out tercets.

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