Stanza Two

Stanza two shows how easily and quickly the cop could be caught up in violent chaos. MacCaig suggests that it would take little for society to break down and that violence is a constant threat.

MacCaig extends the image of the tissue reflecting peace, imagining the impact it may have, should it break:

Should the tissue tear, should he plunge through/into violence, what clubbings, what/gunshots between Phoebe’s Whamburger/and Louie’s Place.

The long sentence structure here reflects the range of possibilities and challenges that the policeman may face at any given moment. The repetition of what suggests uncertainty - the possible violence the cop faces is unknown. Its repetition also demonstrates to the reader the severity of the violence that he has to face – it is almost impressive.

The language that MacCaig uses, at times, helps to root the poem in New York. The word Whamburger has American connotations and in American speech it is fairly common to refer to a building as someone’s place, like we see here. These are not glamorous locations - they sound cheap, even dodgy. These could be where criminals hang out. Whamburger implies violence: Wham is a word that could be used to suggest the sound of a punch landing in a comic strip.

MacCaig’s word choice in this stanza also emphasis the danger of the setting of New York. Tear suggests sharp pain. The alliteration of tissue tear creates a quick phrase that implies a sudden act, while plunge implies that violence can be abrupt and uncontrollable. Additionally, the image of the policeman being put into violence captures its physical nature.