Poem with an explanation: the hill, the valley, and the mountain

the hill
did look down
on the valley
and chastised it
for being so low

the wind blew
the rain fell

the mountain
looked toward the sky

 

This poem is about care for the elderly and perspective.  It is about relative positions in life.

In the poem there are three people: the valley, the hill, and the mountain.  The valley represents the elderly person.  The hill represents the adult child of the elderly person.  The mountain represents the child of the adult child.  This is three generations.

In the poem, the adult child is frustrated with their elderly parent.  They look down on them and chastise them for their physical incapability.  They can’t understand why the elderly person can’t be like themselves.

The adult child is oblivious to the progression of life.  In the poem there are three stages: a mountain, a hill, and a valley.  As a mountain erodes it becomes a hill.  As a hill erodes, it becomes a valley.  The adult child is criticizing their elderly parent for their physical incapability, not realizing they are moving in the same direction.  They don’t see their own erosion (represented by the wind and rain).  They don’t see where they’ve been, and they aren’t realizing where they are going.  They don’t realize they will be elderly someday, and therefore they don’t have compassion on someone who is elderly.

The mountain, representing the person in the third generation, has their focus somewhere else.  They don’t see the hill or the valley.  This shows that they are oblivious both to the treatment of their elderly relative, and of the reality that they will one day be in that position.  They don’t see the future implications for themselves.  They are concerned with other things.

It can sometimes occur in the care of the elderly, that the caregiver doesn’t see themselves in the one they care for.  They don’t see that they too will be in that position.  It can also be the case that younger generations are concerned about other things and don’t see the actions of caregivers or the condition of the elderly.  The poem is meant to highlight these things.

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Poem with an explanation: drifting after the storm

in darkness the storm
the leviathan thunders
drifting out to sea

 

This poem is a haiku.  It is written in the 5-7-5 format.

This poem about the first signs of a serious illness.  In the poem, a person wakes up in bed, covered in sweat.  At this point, the person feels that something is physically wrong, but is not aware of the seriousness of it.

The poem uses idea of the sea as a metaphor.

The first line says, “in the darkness the storm”.  This alludes to a few things.  “the darkness” refers to the night as well as to the idea of the negativity of the illness.  It also refers to the idea that the person is “in the dark” in regards to the condition they have.  “the storm” refers to the person sweating, and again to the negativity of their condition.

The second line says, “the leviathan thunders”.  A leviathan is a mythical sea monster.  It is representative of the illness the person has.  The thunder the person metaphorically hears is not natural thunder, as a storm might suggest, rather it is the sound of the leviathan.  The idea here is that the person thinks what is happening is normal, like thunder during a storm would be, but what is happening is not normal.  The person is seriously ill but thinks they are just having a temporary condition.

The third line says, “drifting out to sea”.  This line changes the tone of the first two.  The first line had a storm and the second line had something thundering.  This line has something that sounds calm – the idea of a person in a boat drifting out to sea.

The idea is to reflect that the person is going on an unknown journey where they lack control.  The person is about to be faced with an illness they know nothing about and over which they have no ability to control.  Something is happening to them.

While this may be something that could be described as abrupt, for example with the line “over waterfalls”, in this situation that is not what is happening.

The person is about to go on the journey of their illness.  This journey has not really started though.  The person has not had the moment of diagnosis.  They have not had the “waterfall moment” of finding out they have a disease.  At this point, the person is in the dark and in some way slowly moving toward their journey.

As the person lays in bed, they have the abrupt moment of waking up covered in sweat, but this moment subsides as the person thinks they are just not feeling right.  They believe that the feeling will pass and they will return to normal soon.  They do not know what is really happening to them.

Poetry essay: Using metaphor and symbolism in poetry

Metaphor and symbolism can be very important parts of poetry.  The idea of talking about something without directly saying it can be a very effective tool for expression.  If you read through some of the poems with explanations on this blog, you can see examples of the use of metaphor and symbolism.

The idea of the clarity and obscurity of expressing ideas through poetry, which relates to the idea of using metaphor and symbolism, was written about in a previous poetry essay on this blog: Clear vs. mixed clear and obscure vs. obscure poetry.

Metaphor and symbolism can be ways to add depth to whatever a poet is writing about.  If the subject matter is light, metaphor and symbolism can make it seem deeper than it is.  If the subject matter is significant, metaphor and symbolism can be a vehicle for expression that lessens the directness but makes the idea more subtly impactful.

Look at this poem:

his life did wane,
beneath the sun,
and in bright days,
no one did mourn

This poem sounds significant.  It seems to be about someone dying and not being mourned.  The poem has a sound of depth to it.

In reality, this poem is about something light: the melting of a snowman.  The poem was written in a way so as to make something little sound like something more.

Writing a poem in this way can have different affects.

On the one hand, it might appear to some to be silly.  A poet writing with depth about something so small.

On the other hand, some might view this poem as a way to express an idea.  The death of the snowman is symbolic.  It is speaking of some larger or more important idea.  For example, imagine if someone saw a snowman melt and it reminded them of the death of someone they knew.  With this view, the symbolism fits the situation.

One caution to writing a poem in this way, is that if a reader learns the true meaning of the poem, they might feel deceived.  Think about a song that you liked and thought was significant, until you learned it was about something small and light.

Here is another poem:

Snowmen,
twenty in a row,
a memory

The arc of time,
moved with pace,
so few are left

The spring will come,
the day will come,
when the field has flowers,
but no snowmen.

This poem is a little like a mirror of the first.  This poem is explicitly about snowmen.  It is basically talking about them disappearing through the winter.  There is a sadness to the poem, even though it is overtly about something light.

This poem though has more depth.  It is really about soldiers from a war many years before.  You may have seen a picture of soldiers of a past war lined up for a photograph.  Imagine it has been fifty years since the picture was taken.  Many of those soldiers would have died.  At some point, all will be gone.  That is the real meaning of the poem.

This poem uses metaphor and symbolism to express something significant, in a way that stills feels significant, but is less direct.  The poem still has emotion, but it might not hit as hard as if the poem had been overt.  Given that though, the poem might seem more reflective and more able to stimulate a sense of thought than a more direct poem might.  The poem is more subtly impactful.

 

Metaphor and symbolism are important for poetry.  They allow a poet a means to express ideas without just saying them.  They can impart meaning to things that are mundane and add subtly to things that are significant.

 

P. S. Happy fourth day of Christmas.

Bilingual Poem: Train of life

Everyone else,
it seems,
stayed on the train,
but you got off,
not even knowing it,
and all the time later,
you wondered,
if you could,
ever catch up.

Todos los demás,
parece,
quedado en el tren,
pero usted ido del tren,
no hasta sabiendo lo,
y todo el tiempo más tarde,
usted preguntado,
si usted podido,
jamás alcanza uno.

Poem with an explanation: heart

Cotton and rivers,
clay and waterfalls,
a tree with roots,
and then a fall.

Broken bells,
windless chimes,
a pile of leaves,
upon the ground.

Sun and Earth,
light and dark,
the drawbridge descends,
and villagers return.

Moments and moments,
light the fires,
moments and moments,
the statues crumble.

Something more,
something said,
the fog descends,
and the story ends.

 

This poem tells a story.  It is about a person who had a heart attack.

The first stanza starts, with the person going about daily chores.  The person does laundry (Cotton and rivers – cotton being clothes and rivers being the washing of the machine), dishes (clay and waterfalls – clay being the ceramic dishes and waterfalls being the faucet) and they mop (a tree with roots – a mop).  In the middle of the mundane, the person has a heart attack (and then a fall – the person falls to the ground).

In the second stanza, the person tries to cry out (Broken bells – the person makes distorted noises because of the pain, like a broken bell would make a distorted noise).  Then they become silent (windless chimes – chimes without wind are silent).  They are still upon on the ground (a pile of leaves, upon the ground – leaves are still and in a disorganized pile, like the person upon the ground in pain.  Also, a pile of leaves is generally a pile of dead leaves.  This shows the seriousness of the person’s condition).

Time passes (Sun and Earth – the movements of the Sun and Earth indicate time).  It goes from daytime to evening (light and dark).  At some point the front door opens (the drawbridge descends), and the person’s family returns from wherever they were (and villagers return).

When the family returns and sees the person on the ground, they have a number of moments (Moments and moments).  They have moments of shock, of fear, of disbelief, and of panic.  They call for help (light the fires – like signal fires).  They have more moments (moments and moments).  The situation overwhelms them (the statues crumble).

At this point, rather than bringing the story to a defined conclusion, the poem ends with ambiguity.  More things happen (Something more, something said), but whatever that is, it isn’t clear (the fog descends).  The story ends (and the story ends) with this ambiguity.

The idea of ending the poem this way, is that the people in the poem are filled with ambiguity (among other emotions) when they find the person on the ground.  They don’t know what will happen.  In this case, neither does the reader.

In terms of form, the poem is five stanzas long.  Each stanza has four lines.  All of the lines are between two and four words long.  In stanzas three and four, all of the lines are three words long.  In stanza four, lines one and three are the same.

Poem with an explanation: and silence lay

On the broken mountain,
with the ocean,
and all those dead,
where the waves cease,
and the plague hides,
broken beams,
piles of iron,
flows of iron,
empty windows,
and silence lay.

 

This poem is about a person who was beaten and left in an alley at night.  The negativity of the scene pervades the imagery in the poem.  Here is a line by line explanation:

On the broken mountain – The person is lying on the stone ground.  The stones, at some stage, were broken off mountains.

with the ocean – Where the person is, the ground is wet with water.  This has run off from different places.  This water, at some stage, came from the ocean.

and all those dead – Along with the water, there is oil on the ground.  This too has run off from different places.  This oil is made of dead plants and animals.

where the waves cease – The person is in darkness as it is night and they are in an alley.  Light can be described as waves and particles.  The idea that there is no light there (or rather very little) is described as the waves ceasing.  This imagery ties back to the imagery of the ocean from before.

and the plague hides – In the alley, there are rats hiding.  Rats, at one point and in some places, carried plague.

broken beams – This line marks a transition in the poem.  The lines before this described the alley.  This marks the start of describing the person.  The person has broken ribs after being beaten.  The person is like a toppled building.  The toppled building would have broken steel beams.  This is used metaphorically to describe the person’s ribs.

piles of iron – The person is bruised.  Bruises, as far as M. Sakran understands, are where blood vessels have been broken.  Blood has iron in it.  The bruises are described as piles of iron.

flows of iron – In addition to having bruises, the person is bleeding.  The person’s flowing blood is described as flows of iron.

empty windows – The person is unconscious.  Their eyes could be described as windows.  Because of their unconsciousness, the windows are described as being empty.

and silence lay – The person is silent.

The poem combines negative nature imagery with negative industrial imagery to describe the scene.

Some interesting points about the poem, relate to some things that are left out.  For example, the gender of the person in the poem is never mentioned.  Readers may have imagined one gender or the other.  Second, the age of the person is not said.  Again, readers may have had a picture of the age of the person in their mind.  Third and fourth, the race and social class of the person are not mentioned.

In another interesting point, the reason for what happened is not said.  The person is described as being beaten and the scene is describe as being negative.  Readers may have taken this to mean the person was a victim (and in actuality, that was the intent).  However, the status of the person in relation to what happened is never actually said.  It could have been, that the person was the bad one in the poem, and that they attacked someone else, who then fought back, causing the result in the poem.  Or, the person could have been on equal moral standing with someone else.  Maybe this was the result of a fight, as opposed to an attack.  These ideas are never explicitly addressed in the poem or the explanation that preceded this part.

P.S.  Did you know that M. Sakran has an eBook of poems with explanations?  It is true.  It is called Understanding: poems with explanations.  If you liked this poem with explanation, you might consider purchasing a copy of the book.

A photograph to inspire poetry: a fly on a dead banana leaf

a fly on a dead banana leaf

This photograph is of a fly on a dead banana leaf.  It is a fairly up close and detailed shot.  One type of poetic inspiration that could come from this photograph, would be a poem that uses the fly and dead banana leaf as metaphorical symbols for something.  For example, imagine a person moving from a house that burned down.  The person could be represented by the fly and the house could be represented by the dead banana leaf in a poem.  He’s an example:

It was strange,
the sound in the wind,
as it blew through the brown,
and it all seemed to rattle.

Pausing there,
standing upon it,
for the last moment,
before this was memory.

What once was alive,
and seemed to grow each day,
was now a shell,
that was empty and thin.

Living there,
staying there,
understanding there,
as wings now twitched.

The wind blew,
the fly would do as it would,
and there upon stalks,
the banana leaves would flutter.

Poem with an explanation: Disappearing

A field of snow,
bright with light,
with crows landing,
upon it.

A flash of light,
thunder,
and quiet:

 a field of black,
 that glows.

The ocean comes,
and sand flows away,
and castles disappear.

 

This poem is one that uses metaphor and symbolism.  The actual idea of the poem, is that someone is sitting at a computer and working on some type of document, when the power goes out, and they lose their work.  The poem takes something simple, and tries to make it sound more profound.

The first stanza, describes the computer screen with words on it.  The field of snow bright with light is the screen with the white background.  The crows are the black text.

The second stanza is literal and metaphorical.  The flash of light and thunder, are literal, because the power outage in the poem, was caused by a storm.  They are also metaphorical, because in addition to describing the storm outside, they describe the flash on the computer screen and the electrical noise the computer makes as it suddenly shuts off.  The computer being off is described by the quiet.

The third stanza is vague in the poem, and has a contrasting image of a field of black and glowing.  The literal idea is that it is the computer screen being black but there is electrical energy at least apparent in it.  It seems to the one watching to either be residual from when it was on, or from static.

The last stanza goes to a new metaphor.  The ocean coming describes a force.  In this case, it is what caused the power outage.  The sand flowing away is a metaphor for the time spent working being lost, because the work is lost.  The castles disappearing, uses the metaphor of sand castles on a beach being taken away by the ocean, to further describe the work being taken away by the power outage.