This poem is included in a collection of poems entitled Late Wife in section three “Late Wife: Letters to Kent.” Claudia Emerson is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet for this collection. This collection focuses on a woman leaving one marriage and finding another with a man that has lost his wife to lung cancer.
“Driving Glove” is an elegy. An elegy, I admit I had to look up. We didn’t cover it in class. It’s a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead. It’s not set up in stanzas nor does it have a rhyme scheme. The rhythm and meter of this poem is trochaic pentameter. An elegy can, however, have its own meter but it doesn’t appear here.
The imagery of the glove is quite literal. Ms. Emerson gives a great description of a glove long forgotten that is also well worn. “It still remembered her hand, the creases where her fingers had bent to hold the wheel, the turn of her palm, smaller than mine.” (870) It’s obvious from the poem that some tragedy befell the owner of the glove but the reader doesn’t get to know what it is. This poem is not lyric but narrative. It’s telling the reader about something that happened to the speaker after returning from a shopping trip. The speaker describes the junk in the trunk that her husband obviously had yet to remove from his loss. The speaker even mentions that the glove is a reminder of that loss. “There was nothing else to do but return it – let it drift, sink, slow as a leaf through water to rest on the bottom where I have not forgotten it remains—persistent in its loss.” (870) The only simile is seen in the previous quote, comparing the glove returning to the bottom of the trunk to a leaf through water to the bottom of a puddle or other small body of water, although a body of water is never truly mentioned in the poem.
It is my belief that this poem represents small reminders of a past life, one that didn’t include the speaker. It seems to me that she is sad that this woman is a persistent reminder by small things in this new life. Some of the junk in the trunk: ragged maps, possibly from long ago road trips and a broken umbrella, perhaps her favorite. The husband has also retained his late wife’s car that his new wife is now using. Does he not want to let go of his late wife? Is that the reason behind all the junk in the trunk that allows this driving glove to shuffle to the surface? Along with the sadness I sense a little bit of pain from the speaker. It’s as if she hurts with all the old reminders there are in the trunk of her car, even though the car was not hers to begin with.
The junk in the trunk makes me visualize a hoarder’s stash; the layers and layers of junk that they hold on to. I don’t think this is what the author intended. I think she intended to let us see the unspoken pain of the little reminders. The speaker is not the first wife of this man and the tragic loss of his love is there in the little things, the ragged maps, the broken umbrella and the driving glove, still in the shape of her hand. We can almost feel that little twinge as the glove is described, a kind of disconnected affection.
In conclusion, this poem is an elegy from a collection of elegies and that collection won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005. It has meter consisting of trochaic pentameter and is about the pain and loss of a beloved wife, the one that came before our speaker.
Emerson, Claudia. "Driving Glove." The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. Tenth. New York: Norton, 2010. 870. Print.
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