A Man is a Man When a Man is on the Road

This is the silent music of the road:

I love this opening sentence, the “silent music of the road” sets up the poem to go on a whimsical journey. I can picture all of these events clearly. - Rachel McGuinness, age 23
An oxymoron, “the silent music” grabs the reader’s attention right away. The speaker is trying to tell us something important in this poem, and we must keep reading to find out what it is. - Heather Bulliss, age 23

uneven cobblestones and the long journey
with an accordion strapped to my back.

I love the addition of "an accordion strapped" to the back of the narrator. Not the cliche guitar, or jazzy, soulful saxophone. An accordion. This instrument, like the man, is unexpected, undefinable. - Lauren Carlson, age 24

The black bellows open and inch down
like some thick Balkan caterpillar. Fat slug

This stanza stood out to me; how the slug moves along the road, inching
up and down, how the black bellows open when it moves. - Natalie Price, age 14

of Eastern Europe. Not me—I keep walking.

The “not me” acts as a triumphant stand of sorts, a refusal to be held back, weighted down. Followed by the em dash, the “not me” emphasizes this notion of continuity in the tangible structure of the poem itself. Though there is a pause, it is a brief one, and the momentum of the poem is pulled onward by that little line. Like the speaker, we will not stop. - Heather Bulliss, age 23

“The where,” you might ask. “For what?”
I don’t know the answers. I’m only amused
that you would notice me at all. You,
with your world as tangible as fog.
 
*This poem was previously published in the poetry chapbook Ten Songs from Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press, 2008)

Nemec Foster reveals much to the reader while saying little. In her line, "For what?" she questions the traditional journey, but also probes at the path of the aloof wanderer. Both, it seems, have their drawbacks. - Lauren Carlson, age 24
This poem leaves me curious as to why the person was walking down the road, but also thinking about their lives. The way that Linda addresses the reader is surprising. This poem feels deeply personal and introspective. I really liked Linda’s writing. She captures an enormous amount of imagery and emotion using very clean, efficient language and mixing it with complex form and observation. - Daisy Hall, age 15
I love the ending line of this poem. I think everyone can relate to the experience of drifting through life unseen at times, surprised when someone takes notice of where you are or what you’re doing. I love the contradiction of tangible and fog, it just shows that nothing is ever what we think it should be. - Rachel McGuinness, age 23
The silence of the first line, coupled with the indefinable fog of the last line, provide us with a context of loneliness. Foster, however, in this quiet world of grey, does not encourage disengagement. Her poem’s travelling troubadour, himself a cultural relic like language, bears an accordion like “some thick Balkan caterpillar” (my favorite of Foster’s lines). Despite solidarity, there remains the potential for music, and this lonely soul, a “Fat slug / of Eastern Europe,” can clearly travel somewhere. What will he play and to where will he go are the obvious questions asked by these images (also by the poet). A destination must be found, a melody discovered, an audience received. Though Foster admits she cannot define these things, she intimates that it is the most human of experiences to seek out these answers; to look, to listen, to sound. Because it acknowledges both human limitation and free-will, this poem is by far my favorite of the three verses featured here. Foster’s verse affirms that though we do not currently know all, we still can choose to enter the fog, a testament of faith professing belief in discovery. An excellent piece. - Nathaniel Schmidt, age 27
This poem open's strongly with it's playful, aphoristic title and definitive opening line. So what is "the silent music of the road"? The accordion softly creaking along with the traveler's gait? The questioning? Or perhaps the very uncertainty which Foster leaves us with at the end of the poem. This slight mystery is partially what makes this poem stimulating. Furthermore, the relatively short poem is littered with compelling images and phrases. Take, for example, the nonsensical syntax of "The where" and the exotic imagery of the accordion, albeit a little overemphasized. Perhaps, my favorite element of the poem is the line "I'm only amused / that you would notice me at all." This frank, conversational tone of this sentence is disarming, jarring us from the preceding rhythm of incomplete sentences and condensed imagery. And of course, we must note the poem's puzzling and poignant closing line. Phrasing it as a direct address to the reader, Foster gives turns the table on us. Suddenly, we are the ones being scrutinized. And what of our world "as tangible as fog"? Is this to say we're of a more concrete mode of existence? As opposed to her wide-reaching sense of the poetic? Or are we to think of this phrasing as oxymoronic--fog being fundamentally ephemeral and elusive--and, in which case, we are the ones living in a world of smoke and mirrors? In fact, the brilliance of these closing words is in this duality of meaning, for fog is just as tangible as it is intangible. It's a matter of perspective--neither one particularly wrong. And perhaps, that's exactly how we're meant to experience Foster's poem--if not all poetry. - Justin Majetich, age 22
There is a deep kind of loneliness in this poem. The wanderer continues on his or her way alone, and though they don’t know where they are going or what they will find there, they know in the meantime they are alone. The division of the speaker from those she comes across is emphasized by the “you,” punctuated by the comma and line break. - Heather Bulliss, age 23
This closing line makes the reader stop to ponder his own permanence. Do we limit ourselves by being stagnant? Should we travel as this man? Or does the line imply that what we think is solid and dependable in our stationary, rooted lives is nothing but fog- merely an illusion of solidity and substance? - Kara Madden, age 26
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.