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Poet Donald Hall writes of his vigil over wife Jane (poet Jane Kenyon), gravely ill with leukemia. To him, the hospital where he spends his days with her is a ship whose huge pounding engines keep the propellers turning so that the voyage to harbor can safely be made. The ship passengers "wore masks or cannulae . . . but I believed that the ship / travelled to a harbor / of breakfast, work, and love."
Hall writes about what he wrote at the time: " ’. . . bone marrow restored . . . I will take my wife . . . home to our dog and day.’ " After weeks of treatment, wife Jane is discharged, months pass, and now, at home, Hall re-reads his own words as he listens anxiously "to hear Jane call for help," and prepares to "make the agitated / drive to Emergency again," knowing that there is no safe harbor and that the ship is going nowhere, a " . . . huge / vessel that heaves water . . . / without leaving / port, . . . / without arrival or destination . . . . "
In the poem, persimmons are a symbol of several elements that have figured importantly in this Chinese narrator's life: they stand for painful memories of cultural barriers imposed by language and custom, and for a present-day loving connection to an elderly, blind father. The poet begins with a schoolboy incident in which he was punished for not knowing the difference between "persimmon" and "precision" and makes a play on other words which sound similar and "that got [him] into trouble." He takes revenge later, when the teacher brings to class a persimmon that only the narrator knows is unripe, as he "watched the . . . faces" without participating. Persimmons remind him of an adult sensual relationship with Donna, a Caucasian woman, and of his attempts to teach her Chinese words which he himself can no longer remember.
The second part of the poem describes the role persimmons have played in his father's life and in their relationship. To comfort his father, gone blind, the narrator gives him a sweet, ripe persimmon, so full and redolent with flavor that it will surely stimulate the senses remaining. Later yet again, the father and he "feel" a silk painting of persimmons, "painted blind / Some things never leave a person."
Summary:To the "people on the pavement," Richard Cory looked like he was on top of the world. The narrator of this 16 line poem (four a, b, a, b rhyming stanzas) tells how Cory was physically good-looking, well-dressed, humane, and very rich ("yes, richer than a king"). Yet "Richard Cory, one calm summer night, / Went home and put a bullet through his head."
Summary:Miniver Cheevy was a "child of scorn" who regretted his life in the real world. He loved to dream of the past, especially the glorious and romantic past. He loved abstractions, like Art and Romance, but "cursed the commonplace" of everyday life. He "scorned the gold he sought, / But sore annoyed was he without it . . . . " He couldn't DO anything in the world, so he "called it fate, / And kept on drinking."
In this nine-stanza, sixty-three line poem, the speaker articulates her process of recovery from surgery in terms of the image of "excitable" tulips that interrupt her "winter" sojourn in the hospital where she has "given [her] name and [her] day-clothes up to the nurses / And [her] history to the anesthetist and [her] body to the surgeons." The images in the poem link one stanza to the other (the nurses like "gulls," her body "a pebble," her family "little smiling hooks," herself "a thirty-year-old cargo boat").
The image of the eye appears throughout the poem as well. The speaker is herself the pupil of a huge eye whose lids are the pillow and the sheet; in another stanza she finds herself existing between the "eye of the sun" and the "eyes of the tulips," herself without a face, but beginning to see beyond her own pain.
The speaker has wanted only quiet and emptiness and is agitated by the presence of the tulips, whose "redness talks to [her] wound" and "weigh [her] down" as she is being "watched" and nearly suffocated ("The vivid tulips eat my oxygen") by them. The tulips, dangerous as "some great African cat," remind the speaker of her heart, a "bowl" that blooms red "out of sheer love of me," and realizes that the tulips call her, ultimately, back to "a country far away as health."
The bud / stands for all things, / even for things that don't flower . . . .
The poet observes that everything flowers from within, if given the chance. Sometimes, however, a being doesn't understand its own loveliness and must be retaught. St. Francis, for example, had to "put his hand on the creased forehead / of the sow . . ." and reveal to her how blessed she was, before she could remember throughout her whole being "the long perfect loveliness of sow."
This is a five-stanza poem about a daughter's visit to her ill and aging mother on the night before the mother's admission to a nursing home. The daughter is the narrator, but she tells us only so much about the kind of relationship they've had or her mother's present circumstances.
Readers are not sure of the nature of the mother's illness other than incontinence ("I peel off your plastic underwear"), an inability to feed herself ("You part / your lips, obedient to my spoon"), and an inability to speak ("Through the meal I talk and talk / to fill the hollows of your bones / with my futile voice"), but there is evidence that she understands what is going on around her ("Your shame / fills the room, rusty odor / of urine, the stains / down the front of your robe"). The poem ends with the daughter's frustration, resignation, and overwhelming sadness over the next morning's trip to the nursing home, and her own shame that she is unable or unwilling to care for her mother in the same way her mother cared for her aging father ("when your father broke his hip, / you kept him with you? Year after year / cleaned the bedsores opening their mouths / like red flowers?").
The narrator, Meera, is an Asian Indian American with a "good life": a beautiful apartment in San Francisco, a challenging job at a bank, and an attractive, attentive, and successful boyfriend Richard. Despite her mother's constant urgings for marriage ("prelude to that all-important, all-consuming event--becoming a mother" ), Meera feels no compulsion to do so. Then one day her life is irreversibly changed when she finds, huddled under a stairwell in her apartment building, a young boy, who she take in and cares for as her own.
Fearful and wordless, the boy adapts to life with Meera, and she to him. Her friends, especially Richard, do not have a clue as to her intense attachment to Krishna, the name she has given him. Worried that she might lose him to child protective services, Meera goes through the process of becoming a foster parent without informing the authorities that she has Krishna living with her. When they find out, he is taken from her, placed in foster care elsewhere, and eventually runs away.
During the following year, Meera looks for him everywhere and grieves as a mother who had lost a child. She briefly considers moving back to India and taking her mother up on some of the men her mother had found for her, "if she could find me a widower with a little boy of about seven. Such a man, I reasoned, would understand about mother-love far more than Richard--or any other American male, for that matter--ever could." (106) But she does not, and eventually marries Richard, on the condition that they not have children.
Summary:This novel by the Nobel-prize winning author chronicles the half century of love entwining three people: Florentino, a poet and businessman who has remained unmarried and has been in love with Fermina, who has had a long, sturdy, reasonably satisfying marriage to Juvenal, a prominent physician and one of the most illustrious men of his time. After fifty years of unrequited love, Florentino declares his love once again to Fermina, now a widow. They become lovers, finally, on a boat cruising up a river without cargo or passengers and with a phony yellow plague flag flying to avoid every port and all human contact.
This is an essay from Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul. The narrator describes her startling reversal to shame over her thin body as she sits in a women's bath house in Morocco with her Moroccan friend, shocked by the discovery that she was not completely at ease with the shape of her body, having thought she'd gone well beyond that stage.
Growing up in a culture that viewed thinness the way modern U.S. culture views fleshiness, the narrator describes her strong sense of unworthiness and disgrace and the jealousy she felt for the "ripe, round cheeks of the other girls, and their chubby arms and legs." Now more comfortable in her body, she is still struck by the ancient standards of beauty--thin or heavy--that are decreed by men. In this Moroccan bath, plumpness means that "women still stick to the rule that says that the male eye is the only mirror where [women] can see their true reflection."