The Tally Stick

Topics: Carving, Smoothing, Scrimshaw Pages: 2 (739 words) Published: December 8, 2011
Allison O’Regan
Prof. Fraustino
Intro. To Poetry
Peer Review Paper #1- “The Tally Stick”

In the poem “The Tally Stick”, Jarold Ramsey uses a stick to symbolize the relationship between two people. Carved notches, arrowheads, and other symbols along the grain of the stick each have their own special meaning and represent certain events that occurred within these people’s lives together. Though over the time, the stick becomes whittled down and weakened; those carvings are a testament to the strength and endurance of their relationship.

Stanza two of the poem takes time to reveal what each individual notch or marking on the tally stick represents in their actual lives. The most intricate carving described represents the day of their wedding. Their lives were brought together that day the same way “the grains converge and join” (6-7) on the stick. With a simple brush of the thumb, the narrator is brought back into the past and remembers all of the different details about that day. Ironically, arrowheads, a symbol generally associated with violence, are used to depict the days of their children’s births. This association was made because an arrowhead gives direction and purpose to an arrow, much like the way a child can give those same meanings to a parent. The arrowheads combine with the etched crosses, used to symbolize the death of parents and loss of friends, and they “make a kind of design” (12) along the stick.

The poem takes on a more dramatic tone in stanza three. In Line 16 within the stanza, it states that the grains that were once conjoined together are now “swirling” (16). The grain is defined as “the longitudinal pattern of fibers in wood” (Webster), so if the grain is described as swirling, it means it is diverged and not flowing smoothly. With this wooden stick embodying the relationship, a distorted gran could represent a trying period for the two people involved. Along with events that directly correspond to their lives, the stick is also...
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