I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about this poem at first glance. I mean, it is formatted as one incredibly long paragraphical rant, followed by abstract, spacial lines all the way up to the (abrupt) conclusion. After reading “Four” several times, I began to gain an appreciation for the aesthetic subtleties that Dick presents regarding life and purpose.
The poem is about one discovering how horrible the world is, reflecting on what can be done to change it, realizing nothing can be done and thus coming to the revelation of either living in the moment or succumbing to suicide.
“Four” begins as a manifestation of what is wrong in the world. The thoughts are structured as random, unrelated thoughts and as we progress through the opening, the thoughts become more related. For example, the narrator’s rant goes from “a lack of ice, nightmares, [to] a depletion in the ozone layer”, all unrelated in nature. Later in the rant, there is much more cohesion with lines like “because your nose is too long, hips too large, eyes the wrong color…” and “because it is Tuesday, Saturday, or Christmas”. I believe Dick did this intentionally to show that the narrator is gathering their thoughts and coming to terms with some sort of clarity.
After the initial jumbled rant, Dick intentionally spaces out the remaining words in the poem, furthering the metaphor of the narrator gaining clarity. That clarity comes with the line, “The body in flight, remains in flight. There is a point of no return”. This is the narrator realizing that as horrible as the world is, there is nothing that can be done about it. The narrator is left with a choice. Either settle for the way the world is or leave it all together. The line “Caught mid-flight…What I can’t undo not my doing” personifies that.
The poem continues in the vein of contemplating suicide from a metaphorical standpoint. The narrator realizes the importance of the present for two reasons: the world is too horrible to chance so one must enjoy the essence of existing and the time to decide to die is in this very moment.
The poem ends abruptly with the line, “in a spasmodic desire to” which leaves the ending open to interpretation. The optimist in me feels that the line ends with “live” as in “a spasmodic desire to live”. I believe Dick wants the narrator to live vicariously through the audience and let us decide the narrator’s fate. I choose perseverance through the tough times as life has a tendency to improve, especially with a change of perspective.