Major Jackson’s poem “Euphoria”, takes place in the seat of his mother’s Benz when she is inside a house getting high on drugs. The poem describes an afternoon after school where he waits in the car with his mother’s groceries, listens to music, and involves himself in his own euphoria. The poem reflects a life teaching topic about what is important in life and what brings happiness to our lives. It shows a tone that offers a sense of sadness, and it presents, in well written language, that shows us the economic and social status of this teenage boy.
The first stanza opens the poem to the setting and exactly what is going on with this mother and son. The poem holds nothing back from the reader with the line, “While she smokes a few white pebbles” (6) which implies that his mother is smoking cocaine and does this with his knowledge, in the moment. It suggests that his mother doesn’t care too much if he is aware and even if she gets him involved in her addiction.
“Late winter, sky darkening after school” (1) tells the reader that the teen is educated and his mother even goes and picks him up. The poem also includes that there are “groceries bought from Shop- Mart” and that she drives a Mercedes (2-4) which is another sign that the family has some values like home making and that the family also has money.
Lastly, the first stanza will tell the reader where the mother goes to get high and what the building looks like, and it seems to not match the environment that he may be familiar with, but at the same time he knows where he is because he casually mentions the street name “parked on Diamond” (3) as though we should also be familiar with it.
The last line “At the house crumbling” (7) suggests that the neighborhood is not kept up and likely does not match a description in which you might fit a Mercedes into.
The second stanza of the poem is about the teen boy and what he will do, while his mother is inside the house, getting high. He mentions how he “clambers” to the steering wheel, this suggests that he is well versed in a higher level of vocabulary, and the next line reinforces it with his statement “undo my school tie”(9). The author wants to point out that he is going to a school that requires ties.
The poet now jumps the reader back to the setting again, he describes a “vacant lot” a prostitute who offers him “A date? Baby? For five?,”, “garbage” on the streets, and “crew-boys” (15-18). He talks about his setting as he did in the beginning, just before he will describe his own euphoria. In the next stanza, he tells us about the girl “crams the crushed bill down, / her stockings, cradles and slides her palm” (22-23).
This is what he begins to describe as his high, but right after he describes his sexual euphoria, he brings back up the song “Creepin” “around the word I now mistake for “weep”. Here, the poet would like to show his audience that he mistakes one word for a sad word as though that is what is in the back of his mind, behind his “Euphoria”. In this stanza overall I think that the author tries to convey to the reader that he as well will enjoy his own euphoria as his mother does, even in ways that are less conventional than what an average person would do to reach a kind of euphoria.
The last stanza brings us back to his mother, the poet has her stepping out of the house and points out that he feels that nothing else mattered to her but her high “As though returned from the ride of her life; studies pavement cracks for half empty vials” (30-31). The poet wants to convey his point for the upcoming line of his mother not having anything else matter in his life “As though nothing else mattered” (33).
“A family, a dinner, a car, nothing” (34), these lines the poet tells are his points on euphoria and the problems that he has in his family, and with his mother. It tells the reader that none of these things matter if you can have the high that his mother gets from being on the “white pebbles” (6). This reflection piece represents a major problem with society and what is considered to be a socially acceptable environment to raise teenagers. Can the mom be a good role model to her son?
Are these behaviors ok or better yet can you blame the teen for his behaviors? I believe that based on this piece and the message that it tries to portray, that the teen believes that the most euphoric you can be in life are nonconventional, and the costs of those can come in the form of family. The family is living a life that many parents would dream of having for their children, “A family, a dinner, a car…” (34) and getting high on white pebbles, having a luxury car like a Benz seem to be worth more.
These are all euphoric ways that you can live life and this poem through its truths shows the reader a life teaching topic about what the effects are, and what it does to the author’s mother and the sadness the effect it has on the author. As a reader of this poem lessons learned are a little bit about what type of “euphoria” we would want in our lives to enjoy.
Abcarian, Richard, and Marvin Klotz. “Euphoria.” Literature The Human Experience. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St Martins, 2007. 156-57. Print.