The second line of your poem reminds us
of Emily Brontė’s phrase, “no coward soul is mine.” While the speaker
in Brontė’s poem comforts herself by reflecting on the eternal
constancy of the Divine, the world of your poem is far less secure.
Your speaker painfully clutches her “Winchester” revolver while
declaring that “a tree-line soul is mine.” What does it mean to have
such a soul? To whom is this poem addressed?
The speaker in my mind is actually clutching a rifle, which is what is
more commonly meant by a Winchester—at least in my experience growing
up in a gun-heavy part of the country. It's interesting that you see a
revolver; Google tells me Winchester did make a revolver for a time,
which I did not know!
Since apparently I’m on a gun terminology kick, I’ll answer your
question through that set of terms, specifically “return” in the third
couplet. In one sense I'm referring to “return” as in the recoil from a
weapon when fired, the “kick” of a shotgun. When this happens, the
stock of the gun can hit you so hard in the shoulder it can bruise you,
especially if you’re a slight person and aren’t prepared for it. The
speaker of the poems has dealt with a repercussion, both literally and
metaphorically, that’s greater than expected. The poem is about the
return of a weapon to the speaker’s hands, a return to guardedness
after an opening up to another person that left the speaker stifled and
damaged. It’s also about the return of the memory of that beloved.
The tree-line is the line of vulnerability, in both hunting and
military strategy. (Or so I imagine, being neither a hunter or solider
myself. As a kid, I was just a quiet carrier of weapons in the woods,
brought along more for some idle target-practice and a sense of defense
than any real desire to do harm to anything.) If you leave the
tree-line and come out into the open, you’re more visible to be shot.
From just behind the tree-line, you can hope to stand in shadow and
take your aim from hiding—a move that shows either intelligence or
cowardice, depending on your perspective. Our speaker’s a little bit of
both a tough guy and a coward to my mind—like so many of us in love.
(Also, I love Emily Brontė; I'm so happy that you see her here!)
“I fled you, and then you fled,”
concludes your speaker in the final couplet. What possibilities does
the two-line form open up for this piece, which speaks so plaintively
of isolation and distance from authority?
I use the staggered couplet often
because it enables pleasurable syntactic ruptures and double-readings.
I also like the way the compression of the short lines makes the sound
echoes chime louder, and helps me more easily position rhymes at
unpredicted intervals within the lines. The music gets going, but it’s
a little off—stately, maybe, but perpetually broken. The poem has the
appearance of a shaky wholeness and unity in a world that’s, as you
said, metaphysically so distant from and unsure of those very concepts.