Paul Monette's Love Alone

Paul Monette's Love Alone

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Paul Monette's Love Alone


Loss. Grief. Mourning. Anger. Disbelief. Emotions are in abundance when a loved one passes away. People need to find a way to cope with the situations and often need to express themselves by writing their feelings down in order to get them out. This is exactly what Paul Monette does in his book of poetry title “Love Alone” in remembrance of his companion Rog. Through writing his poetry Monette describes his emotions and the events that occurred during Rog’s battle with AIDS. By Monette’s transitioning through different emotions, the reader begins to understand the pain the author is dealt. Touching upon Kubler-Ross’ five stages of death including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, Monette transitions to Rog’s decline in health. Using different fonts and no punctuation, the lines are interpreted by the reader using instincts to know when to begin and end a sentence. Evident in the poems “The Very Same”, “The Half-life”, and “Current Status”, Monette gives a description of loss that makes the reader tingle.

The poem “The Very Same” was written at Rog’s funeral. Family and friends of Paul try to get him to move on but Monette, being insulted to think that he can move on so quickly, does not adhere to the advice. Monette felt a special connection with Rog and felt as if a part of him died when Rog died He felt as if he lost his other half. To express the intonation in which the reader should interpret the poem different styles of font express the emotions and give the tone of Monette’s voice. “BUT THIS IS MY PAGE IT CANNOT BE TURNED”(Monette 20). Written in all capital letters the reader interprets this as an exclamatory remark. The italics on “is” emphasizes that word should be stressed. Monette is very angry at this point that everyone is telling him to move on, to “turn the page.” But he feels as if there is no page to turn to. He and Rog were one soul in two bodies. How can someone live with half a soul. The use of italics is interpreted as a softened way of speaking.

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“we’re the same person when did that happen”(Monette 20). Most often used when talking to Rog, Monette softens the way he talks to make sound more sincere and loving. The italics is also a way to convey to the reader that a quotation is taking place. With no punctuation at all throughout any of the poems Monette found a clever way of letting the reader know when someone was speaking. Without any actual emotions being written as in a novel, many of the emotions are left to the reader to interpret.

There are many tonal shifts throughout this poem. Monette transitions from one emotion to another quite rapidly and often without any warning to the reader. He goes from being depressed and angry one moment to sharing a happy memory with Rog. Most often found in this poem is Monette’s anger and denial to his family. “an idiot cousin once-removed jiggled my shoulder time to the page Paul intoned like it’s all been so appalling” (Monette 20) Monette is deeply angered that his family does not believe in the strong connection that he and Rog had, expecting him to move on so quickly. This quotation conveys anger at the situation being asked to turn the page and move on. Monette also conveys a sort of mockery at his cousin calling him an idiot and his use of words. Monette hardly uses any sort of derogatory language but his use of “an idiot cousin” shows his anger. Also the intonation of “it’s all been so appalling” (Monette 20) conveys that Monette believes that his family does not actually know what he has been through. They were not there to give Rog his medicine or to see him suffer and the fact that they expect everything to be alright in a matter of days really angers Monette.

The poem “Half-life” was once again after Rog’s death. However, this time Rog is contemplating his feelings of how now only half of him exists. Every part of himself is halfway gone because Rog is gone. Monette describes his emotions in a more sincere heartfelt way in this poem at times making the reader feel like crying because of the pain he is enduring. Using repetitive language of the word “half” throughout the poem, the reader feels the word become simultaneous with Monette when used in conjunction. “exactly half of the phenomenal world is gone” (Monette 16). In this quotation Monette is expressing how he feels that the world is no longer right and that everything is gone for him. Nothing seems to be the same without Rog. “in bed I get up and half of me doesn’t work” (Monette 16) In this quotation Monette feels he can no longer function without Rog. The daily activities of getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed have become chores that he dreads doing. He can no longer take care of himself not only because he does not want to but because he does not feel capable of performing such acts. He feels as if half of him has died with Rog and that he can no longer do anything the same.

Figurative language is very apparent in the poem “Half-life”. Using metaphors and similes the words on the paper come alive with new meaning. “I drag me like a broken wing” (Monette 16) Using this simile Monette compares himself to a wounded bird in which half of it is broken. A bird cannot fly with a broken wing just as Monette cannot live with out Rog. The bird becomes susceptible to the dangers of the world just as without Rog, Monette is faced with all the hardships of the world. “the skull’s bedrock truth just as I’m the friendless kid who never made it out of Andover Ma” (Monette 16) This simile tries to describe the incomplete feelings of Monette. The skull is the last part of the body to disintegrate and bedrock is a hard form of land, just as being a friendless kid is a hard part of childhood leaving a prisoned environment. Monette feels there is no where else for him to go; he is stuck in a hard place that will eventually be the place he dies.

The third poem, “Current Status”, is a technical and scientific outlook of Rog’s sickness. It shows how Monette’s health has digressed since Rog’s death due to the fact that Monette feels he cannot function completely without him. Using alliterations, Monette reiterates the meaning of the poems with coinciding sounds such as “mustn’t muss,” “part purest,” “cornflower blue capsule,” and “flows clockwise five feet north flows.” (Monette 34) Monette also uses strong figurative language in this poem through the use of similes and metaphors. “I peer at each specimen in the bowl like an oral poking entrails” (Monette 34) In this simile Monette describes how he searches the specimen for anything that could be out of the ordinary causing him to become him. “into sleep that little church of the dark” (Monette 35) This metaphor describes how at any time he can fall asleep and never wake up but the church symbolizing hope so his dreams may keep him alive. “we needed a gram balance like a charcuterie in Paris” (Monette 35) This simile compares the need for a gram balance to the that of a deli of sorts in Paris. Charcuteries are in abundance just as a gram balance should give answers in abundance.

Monette transitions from different emotions throughout the poems very quickly. In the poem “The Very Same” the quotation “has Donahue done a show on it maybe a ring of widows all walks of life…this page is all that’s left of time there was no page before I caught you the book was nothing but cover painfully thin and hopelessly derivative” (Monette 20) Monette starts off angry about how everyone expects him to move on so quickly and then abruptly ends in a sensitive, upset manner describing how he has nothing without Rog. Also from the same poem, in the quotation “He cannot seem to tell who’s who as you used to say in your cranked-up bed playful astonished But we’re the same person when did that happen with Death’s signals jammed I and my page have eluded the dart” (Monette 20). Monette once again starts off angry, this time with God for not taking them together and ends the quotation being upset as to being the same person. In the poem Half-life the quotation “I want the rest of me to be the rest of you but cut in half like this how can I I read your ’80 diary its limpid accounts the blessed dailiness gold as winter sunset” (Monette16) he transitions from longing to be with Rog to the sadness of knowing he never will be again. This quotation describes how he adjusts to different emotions but realizes that he can only be who he is now and he can’t look back on the past because all it brings is sorrow. Also from “Half-life” “I must’ve loved life too much in our time doubtless this is to balance me out so I live in what’s left of the evidence not out there in the rotting garden” (Monette 17) Monette tells of his intense love for his companionship with Rog which then trickles down to a deep loneliness. He transitions from the past until now. In the poem “Current Status” the quotation “cracks on the heart don’t blip on an EKG this no treatment sorry we don’t cure life Rog I am still in the anteroom of all useless measures” (Monette 35) Monette changes from his health to Rog’s being in the waiting room for Rog to being in the waiting room to be told how much longer he will live. The last quotation from the same poem . “these are not just tests of fate bearings in a wheel of luck they are fate made visible which of my thirteen pills would I give a dying child which one ought the world be taking morning and night…is this how being a hero is or just dying” (Monette 36). Monette makes a sarcastic remark as to which pills he will give up when it is in actuality is helping. He is transforming from being a dying grief stricken man to becoming a hero.

Throughout all of Monette’s poetry in Love Alone it is very apparent his emotional distress. He evolves throughout Kubler-Ross’ stages of death throughout the poems but in no specific order. The stage of denial is evident in the poem titled “the worrying” in which Monette pleads “PLEASE DON’T MAKE HIM SICK AGAIN” (Monette 10) by acting as if Rog won’t be sick again he will be alive forever. Anger is expressed at his family is the poem “The Very Same” getting mad at the fact of moving on. Bargaining is evident in the poem “The Worrying” writing “there must be something just say what it is and it’s yours” (Monette 12). Monette is willing to give up anything to be with him longer. Throughout all of the poems a depressed feeling is given and in the final three poems a sort of acceptance to Rog’s death and his living through memories is evident. Whether or not Monette meant to follow these steps it is evident they appear. These poems are a way a of dealing with Rog’s death in yet another way of accepting it.

Works Cited:

Monette, Paul. Love Alone. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.
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