In the poem “Red Shift”, the poet Ted Berrgan suggest that emotions shift as life moves through different stages. The speaker becomes more hostile as his story progresses through different circumstance of his 43 years of life. In the poem the speaker reminisces about his past experiences and he shows different emotions.
In the first three lines the speaker goes into detail about the setting of the poem. The speaker reveals, “The air is biting, February, fierce arabesques”(2) this is the speaker first showing of emotion because winter is generally regarded as a depressed time of year. This depression brings the speaker to remember his past and elaborate on his feelings about it.
In lines six through nine the speaker talks about “Frank” and “Allen”. He says “it’s Heavy with that lightness, heavy on me”(7-8) the speaker feels influenced by these men who have paved the way for him. The speaker believes that their great accomplishment force him to perform better because they have set the standards high. He feels pressure as he is trying to “heave through it”(9) as not to be held down b others expectations.
In lines ten through sixteen the speaker goes back “twenty years ago” (11) and he seems to experience a different kind of emotion. “Looking at the smiling attentive women, & telling. Who would have thought that I’d be here” (12-13). The speaker is feeling love and is amazed at how he never thought he would feel this way in his lifetime. “Love, children, hundreds of them, money, marriage-ethics, a politics grace” (15-16) he expresses in happiness the elements that make up his life at this moments.
In lines nineteen through twenty-four the speaker becomes more hostile. He starts of by setting the time and place “6th and Bowery in 1961”(21) where he was just a boy. The speaker then goes on to say “that pretty girl nineteen, who was going to have to go…to burn, & to burn more fiercely than even she could e=imagine so to go”(21-22) this girl broke his heart. The speaker’s first heartbreak of his life is still burning in his memory.
The speaker then goes on to express his feeling for a “painter” (24) in lines twenty-four through twenty-eight. This “painter” seems to take the pain of that heart break away “I would never & never will leave alone until the day we both vanish”. This “painter” is a close person who the speaker feels dearly about. The speaker is positive that the painter “will never leave me” (27) this is feeling of trust and faithfulness.
In lines thirty-one though thirty-four the speaker struggles with an issue of death, “When will I dies? I will never die, I will live to be 110”(31) He seems frightened by what his future holds for him. The uncertainties of life seem to upset him a great deal. He doesn’t want to be forgotten in the memory of others “I will never go away” (32).
In lines thirty-five through thirty-nine the speaker becomes angry towards someone. “ I didn’t ask for this you did”(35) someone is blaming the speaker for their mistakes. He goes on to say, “I came into your life to change it & it did so & now nothing will ever change”(37-38) he seems like he has no regret for what he did for this person. The speaker truly believes he did the right thing in this person’s life and is happy with the way it turned out knowing that nothing will be changed.
The last lines the speaker seems to go into depression. “Alone & crowded, unhappy fate, nevertheless I slip softly into the air”(40-41). The speaker comes back to reality after reminiscing to realize he wasn’t happy with the way he has lived his life so far. He is letting “the world’s furious song flow through my costume”(42) ad he isn’t living to his full potential.
The speaker in this poem expresses many different emotions throughout his life. He has loved, lost, trusted, and accepted life’s issues. He is only “43” and still has time to fix his mistakes and better his life. The speaker’s depression is motivation to keep living.