Study Guide

Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape The Home

By John Ashbery

The Home

Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch: "How pleasant
To spend one's vacation en la casa de Popeye," she scratched
Her cleft chin's solitary hair. (4-6)

The Sea Hag calls Popeye's apartment "the home of Popeye" in Spanish, making it sound like a luxury villa. But we already know it's a cramped shoebox of a place. The Sea Hag's use of Spanish seems like a sign of sophistication. She comes off as very pampered and domestic, which runs totally against her name. Shouldn't she be living in a cave somewhere?

"Thunder
And tears are unavailing," it read. "Henceforth shall Popeye's apartment
Be but remembered space, toxic or salubrious, whole or scratched." (16-18)

The author of the note pinned to Swee'pea's bib remains unknown, but it could be Popeye or his duplicate father, whose name we never tire of repeating: Poopdeck Pappy. The note seems to imply that "thunder and tears" would somehow help Popeye get his apartment back after being exiled by his father. But the word "Henceforth" reads like a decree. It means "from now on," like when you say to one of your siblings; "From now on, stay out of my room!"

Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh. "I have news!" she gasped. "Popeye, forced as you know to flee the country
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened, duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
In particular (19-23)

In the cartoon series, Popeye's father was a lazy, good-for-nothing man. Ashbery spices up the story between Popeye and his son. His father plans to have him exiled to the country because he was jealous of the two truly valuable things in the apartment: Olive and spinach. The home is the battleground where this drama plays out. "Wizened," by the way, doesn't mean "wise" – it means wrinkled or old looking.

Minute at first, the thunder

Soon filled the apartment. It was domestic thunder,
The color of spinach. (36-38)

The outside world invades the apartment in the form of green thunder. But the thunder is "domesticated" or tamed. You might compare it to one of those miniature clouds that hangs over the head of one particularly unlucky cartoon character, while it's sunny everywhere else. The thunder is fitted for a tiny urban apartment.

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