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This brief poem describes a revelatory conversation the speaker has with her dying brother "The last time we had dinner together in a restaurant . . . ." Her brother takes her hands into his, and asks if she really understands that he will die soon. The speaker assures him that she does, hinting at an inner acceptance the brother questions. He then turns the tables on her (and on the reader) by suggesting that what she really needs to accept is that she herself will die someday--and that until she understands this, she cannot really comprehend the reality of his dying.
The poem is divided into six stanzas, each titled by a successive day. The subject of the poem is a woman's reaction to mammography and the unexpected "spot" that is discovered. The woman is shown the spot on the mammogram, and the agony begins: does she have breast cancer? The exam occurs on Thursday; she must wait until the following Tuesday to find out.
Meanwhile, life and relationships take on new meanings and tenderness. For instance, at a large family reunion, she is determined to laugh with the family about childhood reminiscences, even though her laughter is now bittersweet (she keeps her torment private from all but her lover).
Other days are filled with worry and nightmare. At long last, during a perfunctory call from her physician, she finds out that the spot is merely a protein deposit. Relieved, she thanks the physician, who remains uninformed of the depth of her patient's recent torment.
Without is Donald Hall's thirteenth book of poems. It was written in memory of his wife, the poet, Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia in their New Hampshire home at the age of 47. Interspersed among the poems in the first half of this book is a major poem, "Her Long Illness." Following that poem is the title poem.
Without is followed by a series of poems, titled as letters ("Midsummer Letter," "Letter After a Year," etc.) that chronicle Hall's grief and his attempt to go on living--without his wife. The final poem in the collection, "Weeds and Peonies," places speaker and reader in Kenyon's garden a year after her death and ends as we see her "peonies lean their vast heads westward / as if they might topple. Some topple."
Alice Jones divides The Knot into three sections. The first is a series of poems evoking the poet's painful and tender relationship with Peter, a former lover who is dying of AIDS. We encounter him first on a rainy day in his hospital bed at St. Vincent's ("The Umbrella"), and then through flash-backs to their earlier lives ("In the Pine Woods," "Painting," "Communal Living"). In the long poem "Blood Clot" the author creates and sustains a dynamism between detachment and engagement, objectivity and subjectivity, medical and personal knowledge: from "This time it's his heart. He has / a tumor" to "The glacier that / freezes us in place for centuries, / the same old separateness, only / this time it's called death. / How dare you do it to me / one more time."
The second, and most intensely personal, section imagines the poet's relationship with her mother. The title poem is the centerpiece here. In it, the knot has two faces: the tie that binds us together and an obstacle to be overcome. While loss is real, she writes, "I refuse to be alone. // There is only one / of us. Loss does not / exist in our vocabulary." ("The Lie") The last section consists of poems on a variety of topics, including a long poem about gross anatomy as an initiatory experience ("The Cadaver").
Summary:When he was dying of / everything, the poet has a dream in which she, too, became diseased and "knew myself." As her friend "got cadaverous and sore," she became more devoted to him. After he dies she asks, "What's / dead? What's dead?" The second part of the poem shifts focus to a circus where a dressed-up elephant defecates as he is performing a trick. Oblivious to what is happening, the elephant continues his act while the audience snickers and laughs. [61 lines]
This first collection of poems includes a series of strong and well-crafted personal narratives. Several deal with the poet's experience in nurse's training. For example, in "Down There" she recalls childhood baths when she would squat and pour a jug of warm water between her legs ("down there") as she washes post-operative women and thinks of the intensely poetic hospital questions, "Can you make wind? / Can you make water?"
In "We Were Gulls" she visualizes the nursing students on Ward Nine and evokes their encounter with a repulsive old man who said, "there isn't a one of you / I wouldn't give a squeeze to / if I could hold you / in my arms / right here in this bed." In "In the Hospital Garden" she recalls the titillating episode of a doctor's wife who gave birth to a "radiation mutation."
But the poet's nursing is not confined to the professional sphere--in "Madame Abundance" she speaks of her son's "string of drool" against her own "milk-dampened blouse of the breast." Poems like "Night Terror," "The Street Where We Lived," and "At the Horse Pavilion" bring the reader into the love and pain of family life. "How long will it last?" the poet asks in one of her poems. In another she answers, "I live alone / I live alone / I live alone / I live alone."
Summary:Rossetti writes about Lilith, Adam's evil first wife according to Hebraic oral tradition. She is described as a beautiful temptress. Her beauty hides a deep evil that nearly snares Adam and dooms mankind.
Stonecrop: Poems January 1987 to May 1989, the first of two sections in Rhea Tregebov's collection, is a series of poems about loss and potential loss, especially concerning her son's life-threatening asthma. In "Vital Signs" she writes, "When we almost lost him, I almost lost myself."
Later, when her son's condition had stabilized, she writes in "Runt," "We can hope to break the cycle." More than two years later, the poet rejoices in her son's growth as he says "Bony" while "turning his head against the hard nest of my shoulders" ("Respite").
Other poems in this series are eloquent responses to other personal losses. As Rhea Tregebov writes in "Sleep," "it is the dust of stars I touch, the dust of cold brilliant stars / we somehow are." "Faith in the Weather," the book's second section, contains poems dealing with a variety of other topics. From a literature and medicine point of view, "How We Know the Animals" and "The Right Thing" are particularly noteworthy.
Breast cancer is a constant presence in this collection of poems by Hilda Raz. Part 1 begins with the poet's uncertainty and fear as she sits with her daughter in the oncologist's office. "I'm still me, same me no / matter what he says. Biopsy report shocks me," she writes in "Weathering/boundaries/what is good." After going under the knife, she further reports, "In the past year / I have given up four of the five organs / the body holds to call itself woman." ("For Barbara, Who Brings a Green Stone in the Shape of a Triangle").
Later, in "Breast/fever" she speaks of her new breast, "two months old, gel used in bicycle saddles . . .
/ stays cold under my skin / when the old breast is warm." Several of the poems evoke her daughter Sarah, both as a child and as a capable young woman who responds to her mother's cancer--"she knows whom to call, / where to go, or she'll find out, I'm not to worry . . . . " ("Sarah's Response")
The poet's illness is a route to self-discovery. Hilda Raz reconstitutes herself with insight, pragmatism, and humor. As she writes in "Nuts," "Nuts to beauty. / Bikini, music, then the childbed . . .
/ Nuts to the mirror." At the end of the book, "The fingers of rain are tapping again. / I send out my heart's drum." ("Recovery")
This poem is in the form of a villanelle, a French verse form derived from an Italian folk song of the late 15th-early 17th Centuries. Originally reserved for pastoral subjects, modern poets from W. H. Auden ("Time Will Say Nothing") to Dylan Thomas (Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night) have employed it for more somber subjects.
The strict definition of a villanelle adheres to the following pattern: five tercets followed by a quatrain with the rhyming scheme of a1ba2 aba1 aba2 aba1 aba2 aba1a2. Williams's "Villanelle," like Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," obeys this convention while relating a bereaved, haunted mother's lament over her dead daughter.