On David O'Meara's "Days"

Ottawa poet David O'Meara taking a short break

The question that launches David O'Meara's poem "Days" turns on how we move through time and what we carry with us, as knowledge and memory of place, event and identity. "Something" we've forgotten nags when we go out, like a black box signalling the location of wreckage. That familiar discomfort: what did we leave behind? Not just what did we forget to bring, but what is it, there, that we're putting at a distance?

"Days" is one of a dozen and a half poems in Masses on Radar that take a mirroring four-stanza form, a three-liner followed by a four-liner, then the reverse. Placed among poems whose forms are more open, more like certain kinds of walks, they bring a grounding grace to the collection, rest stops for the mind where it can pause for a short ritual. This formal range -- which includes an elegy composed in quietly chiming couplets -- is one of the many things I admire and enjoy about this book. 

In "Days," the not-quite-remembered may not be signalled by the black box of wreckage, but instead by a transforming "high voice" calling down the long streets of the past, across time and place, across experience and gathered knowledge. At the centre, a casual demand for proof of identity and belonging, like a decoy from the poem's recognition that we think we can go out and come back and nothing will be changed. We forget, for awhile, while time is suspended, that it is also passing and has passed, that everything changes and has changed. We go on, the poem tells us, as though nothing has changed. The high voice, like the voice of the dead or the divine, calls out across time and place, across history. The jolt of the particular: "as if we'd rush back," across continents and a decade, to "my father still alive" among the mundane and familiar. 

How strange, the way we carry on with our lives after anything happens, loss especially, almost, but not quite, as though it hasn't happened. That's the "ah" of recognition  I keep coming back to when I read this poem.