he might flourish, but the only certainty
is that he will flounder
We’ve all heard of the tired adage “a picture says a thousand words”, but Ross White is able to whittle down hypothetical outcomes and answers into a poem that reflects the risk and yield of its very subject. How isolated and unimaginable is the unseen world of the young man who has “yet to disappoint” the speaker and their family. The future of this “candidate for Vietnam” ultimately leads to “a bowling trophy he once won”. Here, the theme of duplicity builds up in the poem’s use of muted color (“dark tie”, “neutral background”, “spare black”) and fragile items. There’s a reality before and after the poem, but “Portrait Of My Father As A Junk Bond” refuses to take any detours or shortcuts. White beautifully balances the past, present, and future of a man with “speculative appeal”.