What You Have to Get Over, Dick Allen – an Analysis


Physically get over? Bad life stuff?

Gut Reaction
Ooh. Fan already due to his use of ‘wend’ and ‘yonder’. Could be a Yorkshireman at play! (He’s not, I know. Don’t spoil it for me.)

What does it all mean?
I think he’s talking about living an everyday life and its usual toils and troubles.

Stumps. Railroad tracks. Early sicknesses,
the blue one, especially.
Your first love rounding a corner,
that snowy minefield.

So here I’m picturing a small boy climbing over tree stumps and train tracks. Not exactly rites of passage but surely something every small boy is want to do.
Googling for additional information because I have no idea what ‘blue sickness’ could be (I imagined a childhood disease), I discovered that the Black Plague was referred to as the ‘blue sickness’ during the Middle Ages. Hmm.
I also came across an album called The Blue Sickness by a band called Bocephus King. I think I like them. But I doubt Allen meant that either.
Maybe he just means the regular flavour of ‘the blues’.
Or that mess of blue and red all babies seem to be covered in when they are born. Grossness. But maybe he just means being born and surviving birth.
First loves and the hazy mess in both actuality and memory. Minefield because, well, is there any other kind of love? Snowy because some days are like that fuzzy TV that never tunes, and other are cosy duvet ones.
Whether you step lightly or heavily,
you have to get over to that tree line a hundred yards in the distance
before evening falls,
letting no one see you wend your way,

A childhood game where you challenge yourself to get to the next tree, or lamppost, or whatever, before you see another car or someone crosses your path (‘let no one see you’).
Or, however you choose to do it, life is a path you take – you do it the best you can, meet your deadlines, achieve your targets (‘a hundred yards in the distance before evening falls’), do what is asked of you – and hope no one sees when you mess up.
that wonderful, old-fashioned word, wend,
meaning “to proceed, to journey,
to travel from one place to another,”
as from bed to breakfast, breakfast to imbecile work.

I love the definition mid-poem! It is a wonderful word! I intend to use it!
He’s talking about the mundane routines we have in life, and seems to be referring to a hated job – which most people will have had at least once in their lives and perhaps always.
I also love the juxtaposition of the endearing ‘wend’ with the dour ‘imbecile’.
You have to get over your resentments,
the sun in the morning and the moon at night,
all those shadows of yourself you left behind
on odd little tables.

Life goes on whether you’re a moody git or not. Days and nights are going to pass and you’ll leave bits of yourself wherever you go – not in a leprosy sense (although maybe you will! Who am I to know these things?) but in that our characters evolve continuously and we are impacted by our environments as much as we impact on them.
Tote that barge! Lift that bale! You have to
cross that river, jump that hedge, surmount that slogan,
crawl over this ego or that eros,
then hoist yourself up onto that yonder mountain.

This feels like he’s talking about working again; I sense he isn’t a fan of the typical ‘day job’. Physical labour, jump through the hoops people create for you, at least pretend to believe in the products you work with/for, deal with all the weirdos you have to work with, no matter their personalities. From the egotistical manager to the office fling or office ‘wife’ (‘eros’).
Striving all the time (‘hoist yourself up into yonder mountain’)… and for what?
Nice use of ‘yonder’ though. Like that a lot.
Another old-fashioned word, yonder, meaning
“that indicated place, somewhere generally seen
or just beyond sight.” If you would recover,
you have to get over the shattered autos in the backwoods lot

A second dictionary definition; this is like getting second helpings of spotted dick and custard!
Recover…from illness? Injury at work? Is he talking about physically getting over things again or the bureaucratic nonsense that is red tape upon returning to work? Maybe he just works in a really dodgy car place or scrapyard.
to that bridge in the darkness
where the sentinels stand
guarding the border with their half-slung rifles,
warned of the likes of you.

Um. Heaven’s gate where only the worthy shall pass and you find yourself unworthy? Or are you breaking and entering?!

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
Seven stanzas that seem to talk about that average man’s life from birth to death.

A bit condescending and lacking of hope. Or…ironic. Or…tongue in cheek. When you can’t tell the difference between the two, I feel at home. Must stop with this Yorkshire obsession…

Suggested rhyme scheme
Free verse! Woo hoo! Big fan. Huge.

Similes and metaphors
Do we have to? All the words!!!
Minefield – relationships
Tree line – seemingly pointless work targets?
Sun in the morning and moon last night – days!
Tote that barge etc – toils of work?
Still a bit hazy with the final stanza but… Death and expectation of an afterlife or reward for a life well spent?

Author’s relationship with their subject
Didactic in the sense of ‘now then, let me teach you just how shitty your existence is going to be’?

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
You’re fooling no one with this one, sir. Yes, life is full of misery and mundane things, but when you interweave it with such wonderful words, you haven’t totally lost all hope, now have you?

Signing off
Really, really love the imagery of this one. It is such a bleak outlook this man has got to be at least an honorary Yorkshireman, surely?! This could be a lad being taken down the pub for his first pint by his father and having his life laid out for him.
I choose to see it thusly (okay… I’ve suddenly rocked up in Prentisstown…germs! Spackle! Todd! Manchee!!! Oh, Manchee…

Life is bloody hard work. Bloody. Some days it is hard just to open your eyes, never mind climb out of bed. But some things, some people, might just be worth sticking around for. And ultimately, life is what you choose to make of it. Annoying, but true. You can fill it with words like ‘imbecile’ and ‘resentment’, or ones like ‘wend’ and ‘yonder’. Up to you 🙂

Dick Allen

Dick Allen

When I read this I think of the songI Am Mine


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