The Tally Stick

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“The Tally Stick”
ENLT 121-2

It is not always feasible to express ones love for another human being simply through words or ordinary actions. Jarold Ramsey wrote a poem that demonstrates how simple markings and items can have priceless meanings to them. “The Tally Stick” is a poem that explains the symbolic intricacies of a stick that he has created for his wife of many years and more to come.

The poem begins showing the analogy between their marriage and the general physiology of the stick itself. Ramsey carved their “lives in secret” (2) to show that his work of art and their memories should remain mysterious. Both the stick and their marriage are beautiful to the public eye, but he only wants the two of them to know the details of why it is so precious. The stick is carved in “mountain mahogany” (3) which is both very durable and free of voids present in common woods. This quality of both wood and love is exemplified by “hard and rare” (3) to symbolize the strength and preciousness of both. Line 5 makes the transition from Ramsey discussing the quality of their love to positively reminiscing their lives together by “touching and handling” (5) the stick as opposed to observing it. This is what makes the tally stick so meaningful; a couple would ordinarily revisit their marriage by opening a scrapbook, whereas Ramsey has created an artifact that can be felt in addition to observed to stir up more powerful emotions.

The most beloved part of the marriage to Ramsey is the actual ceremony itself. The “intricate notch” (6) at the beginning of the stick, which he explains is “our wedding” (7), demonstrates how much he values the matrimonial ceremony between them. This intricacy is created where grains “converge and join” (6) which can be personified to a man and woman becoming one—their convergence making them larger and more whole than they were as individuals. He values this moment so dearly that he can give specific details of the wedding...
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