Aliesa Zoecklein on “Vacation Keepsake”
My poems aren’t usually straight narrative, but I pretty much wrote “Vacation Keepsake” exactly as the event happened. When I saw the plover take that step and then react, I put down my binoculars and thought, Shit, did this just happen? I knew immediately that I would write about it.
I rarely write poems focused solely on the natural world though nature is in many of my poems. I’m drawn to the fragmented, the dark and dreamy; I like trying to articulate the spaces between my reality and my imagination.
I am, however, learning that sometimes it may be enough to record, to simply get down what happened without too much extra. That terrible little moment was both dramatic and ordinary, the kind of moment that happens around us all the time when we’re busy doing something else.
In the moment of seeing the plover, I felt helpless so, for me, the speaker’s inaction is at the heart of the poem. Here’s a human-made problem, a specific example of that problem, but with no resolution. The binoculars simply magnify and add irony: Even though the speaker has a close-up view, a precise focus, such seeing doesn’t influence the outcome. The last image I remember, which is not in the poem, is of the plover flying low over the water, trailing that fishing line and block of wood. I’d like to think that she worked her leg loose of the line, but here I may be employing imagination to help me feel better.