Travis Lane Wade on Kristi Maxwell and dualism

In Kristi Maxwell’s poem, “TO KEEPING WE DID NOT FORGET,” the imagery of a field conveys a tone of desolation found in between light and dark or day and night. Maxwell writes:

A small fire stuns the field within cinder blocks.
The field looks far away

in this narrow perception of light.

The word choice that Maxwell makes with the verb “stuns” gives this line in the poem a liveliness and an unexpectedness that excites the senses and suggests a tone that would otherwise seem contradictory of a “small fire” in a far away field. The play on the double meaning of “cinder blocks” adds a dualism to the imagery and the tone of this line. Here, Maxwell is referring to “cinders” as smoldering bits of wood. But the concept of an enclosed space or imprisonment still appears within the phrase “within cinder blocks.” Thus amongst a line where the imagery comes alive, Maxwell creates a duality that also conveys a stillness and a sense of loneliness.

The concept of dualism within these lines of poetry creates a concept of light and darkness that complements the contradicting tones at work here. A small fire in a field illuminates an otherwise dark night. However, it is that “narrow perception of light” that makes the field look “far away.” Maxwell has created a complementary dance between two adversaries—a world where lightness and darkness are not competing, but sharing a space and building an emotional setting where the reader can have a sensory experience all their own.

I see this field from a distance. The tiny glow just an afterthought on a cold, windless night. And although the field is relatively close by, the illusion of that small source of light makes me aware of my distance.

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