Published in the Winter 2004 edition of The Gettysburg Review, Mark Kraushaar’s “Tonight” was selected for the 2006 edition of Best American Poetry. Inspired by the work of Walt Whitman, Kraushaar tells a story of emotion and coping in his piece “Tonight”.
When I first read through the poem, I was immediately drawn in by the action of a man being chased down by police. The excitement of the opening stanza, as a man crashes his car into a light pole and continues to flee from the cops on foot, ”scaling a chain-link fence in socks and no shirt” with his “cheek bleeding”, is something that I have never before seen in a piece of poetry. While I can’t honestly say that I have ever read poetry in my free time, the poetry I have read in school typically have involved difficult language, confusing themes, and as a result, often end up boring to read. This poem, however, was the exact opposite of those stereotypical pieces that we seem to endlessly study in attempts to decipher their strange messages. The action packed opening of the poem made it impossible to pass up, as it would be a crime to ignore what I had been searching for in poetry all throughout my education.
Throughout the poem, Kraushaar continued to impress me with the simplicity of his message. So often in poetry, writers often attempt to make their work as cryptic as possible, making it hard for the reader to relate. Kraushaar, on the other hand, seemingly invited the reader to share the emotions that he expresses in his work, and he does this by making the piece easy to understand and relatable for the reader.
As the fleeing man “trips into the street, where he’s hit by a bus” and then “five cops cuff him”, the police chase comes to an end. However, instead of looking at the criminal with pity and disgust, he feels sorry for the man. Soon, it is made clear that this entertainment was only used in an effort to keep Kraushaar’s mind off of his close friends cancer diagnosis. The sympathy he feels for the criminal, as he refers to him as a “sad man”, comes from the sadness and sympathy he feels towards his friend. He views both his friend and the man on tv in the same way, as they both seem helpless and lost in their respective scenarios.
As Kraushaar’s mind is taken off of the police chase, it soon starts to dwell on his friend’s illness. He starts to think about how the cancer came to be, as he pictures individual cells traveling around the body, and landing in “a spot in her lung. This sort of “why did this happen” thought, is something that all people can relate to. So often when presented with a challenge or a problem, I ask myself, “Why me?” As we all do, however, Kraushaar soon realizes that these things happen, and the way to overcome these challenges is not simply by asking, “Why me?”
As a teenager, it is a natural habit to make stupid decisions. Last summer, while driving myself to get some lunch, I was speeding down a hill after being stuck behind a slow driver, and was pulled over by a police officer disguised in an undercover vehicle. Since I was essentially at Mama Carmela’s, the deli I was going to eat at, I pulled into the parking lot and waited for the police officer to catch up to me. In a few seconds, the officer sped in, parked behind me, and although I clearly realized I was being pulled over, he kept his sirens on and made a scene for the packed deli to see. When he came up to my window and asked for my license and registration, I remembered that my license was at home, and my car’s registration was expired. After being handed a hefty $216 ticket, he informed me that I would get a notice in the mail that my license was suspended for 60 days. When I told my mom about the unfortunate incident, she was not happy about it to say the least. While I felt helpless at the time, in a week I had earned enough money working to pay off the $216 ticket and the $500 insurance increase, and my problems were solved. While I didn’t lead the cops on a high speed pursuit, and didn’t end up bleeding in handcuffs, I do feel sympathy towards him, just as Mark Kraushaar did.