Showing 111 - 114 of 114 annotations contributed by Belling, Catherine
Summary:This short prose poem (a single paragraph) concisely tells a powerful story. A composer at an artist's colony believes he has fallen in love with a woman of almost sixty, a Japanese painter. One night, late, at her door, she acknowledges their mutual desire, but warns him that she has had a double mastectomy. He leaves her, apologizing. In the morning he finds that she has left a bowl on his doorstep, filled with dead bees covered by a layer of rose petals.
The poem's omniscient speaker describes the inhabitants of an "Old Ladies' Home" with bleak and dehumanizing detachment. In the first of the three seven-line stanzas, the fragile elderly women appear "like beetles" who "creep out" of the institution's buildings for the day. Their habits and relationships are observed in the second stanza: knitting, and children who are "distant and cold as photos," with "grandchildren nobody knows."
Presaging the arrival of death in the last stanza, the ladies wear black, "sharded" in it, but even the "best black fabric" is stained red and green by age. In the evening they are called in by the nurses, "ghosts" who "hustle them off the lawn" to their beds, which resemble coffins, and where Death waits.
This is a collection of twenty-six first-hand accounts by women institutionalized in mental hospitals or "asylums" in America between the mid-nineteenth century and the end of World War II. The book is divided into four historical periods, each introduced by the editors with an essay contextualizing the narratives in relation to the history of the psychiatric establishment, and to the roles, perceptions, and experiences of women in American culture.
The accounts are all extracts from works published by the writers, usually as attempts to expose the injustices of the mental health system. Most of the writers are not well known, with the exceptions of the author Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the actress Frances Farmer, whose account concludes the book [see film annotation in this data base: Frances].
Ben Jonson wrote this elegy after the death in 1603 of his eldest son, Benjamin, aged seven. The poet addresses the boy, bidding him farewell, and then seeks some meaning for his loss. Jonson blames himself, rhetorically at least, arguing that he hoped too much for his son, who was only on loan to him. Now that the seven years are up, the boy has had to be returned.
Jonson tries to argue that this is only fair and his presumptuous plans for the boy's future were the cause of his present sense of loss. He then questions his own grief: why lament the enviable state of death when the child has escaped suffering and the misery of aging? He cannot answer this question, simply saying "Rest in soft peace" and asking that the child, or perhaps the grave, record that his son was Jonson's "best piece of poetry," the creation of which he was most proud. He concludes by vowing that from now on he will be more careful with those he loves; he will be wary of liking and so needing them too much.