Bruce Meyer’s “Mountain Time”

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Recently I’ve had the opportunity to read Bruce Meyer’s collection of poems, Mesopotamia, released by Your Scrivener Press in 2009. The collection as a whole delves into questions of existence, faith, and the desire to connect with humanity and the greater world. The last of these is apparent in one of my favourite poems from the collection called “Mountain Time”.

Already two hours later back home,
my daughter wishes me a happy Valentine
and she asks when will you come home
already two hours later back home.
She wants to know where I’m calling from.
Here, it’s slower, it’s Mountain Time,
already two hours later back home.
My daughter wishes me a happy Valentine.

Love can move mountains, I say to her,
and her kiss in the phone is like melting ice.
The world is tectonics under great pressure –
love can move mountains, I say to her
using my words to pull her closer.
I’ll soon be home, and she replies simply with nice.
Love can move mountains, I say to her,
and her kiss in the phone is like melting ice.

The form of the triolet is used brilliantly here. The form itself involves eight lines, of which the first appears again as lines four and seven and line two is repeated as the very last line. Here the triolet is employed to emphasize the absence felt between the speaker and his daughter. In the first line, the time zone difference is acknowledged to set the stage for the conversation that will follow, but by line four a longing has crept into the repetition and we know the daughter wants to see her father once more, who has been away from home for some while. Line seven sees this time difference become an explanation for the speaker not being around on Valentine’s Day.

The second stanza sees another triolet that has the speaker’s attempt to reason with the daughter fall on deaf ears. Here, the repeating of “Love can move mountains” begins as a hopeful way of assuaging the girl’s stress at her father not being home for Valentine’s Day. In lines twelve and thirteen, we see the speaker implying that there is a serious break in the relationship between him and his family, perhaps due to trips away from home for work. We are not given any background to this and, to be fair, it’s certainly not required. The reasons for the tension between the speaker and his daughter are, no doubt, another part of the problem. His insisting that “love can move mountains” does in fact show an expressed wish on his part to be there for the relationship, but without having to do anything about it. The daughter’s reply in line fourteen is telling in its dismissal. By line fifteen the speaker has to resort to repeating again his desire for his daughter’s affection, though in this case it comes across as desperate and demanding.

It is worthy of note to say that each triolet consists of two rhymes, which, in a poem concerned with repetition, echoes the tension between the polar elements of the father and daughter. This layering of pairs (two rhymes, repeated lines, two stanzas, two characters) shows Meyer’s attention to the duality of shared experience; that in any interaction there are multiple perspectives of which to be aware. All this presented in a poem of simple language arranged in seemingly simple form.

One of the joys of reading poetry is finding a selection that does not just present an interesting or essential theme or idea, but backs it up in a creative way by using form, whether metrical, sonic, or topographical. There are gems like this throughout Mesopotamia.

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