Poetry Responses

Phillis Levin

A day comes when nothing matters
And nothing will suffice.
The heart say: I cannot.
The soul say: I am not.

The window whose frame
Once held dawn
Gleams all night in desolation,
And one tree

Untouched by blight
Offers a fruit you do not refuse,
An anguish impossible to conceive

Until this lucky day.
Weigh it in your hands, so heavy,
So light: is there more to wish for?

One can read a poem and can get very easily confused. However, maybe this confusion doesn't come from the poem itself, from the words of the speaker. Rather, shades of gray can easily come from the ideas that are presented. It is probably best to look at this poem and to ask the question, "Who is Moira?"

We all know someone like her. As a matter of fact, we have all been her in some painful stretch of our life. Imagine a time of loneliness, nothing is right in the world. Things are so bad that you only wish to feel worse so that maybe, just maybe, someone will give you attention. Yes you do not wish for attention because then things would get better and no one would give you attention anymore. Maybe that is Moira. Times are hopeless in this terrible day in her life. She feels as if nothing can help her, nothing can satisfy her one desperate plea, for something good to happen.

When times are bad, everything within you seems to quit. Like I have said, we have all been there. I remember a few times very clearly, especially within the past few months. Even within the past few days. Sometimes life gets so overwhelming that one cannot help but be, for lack of a better word, overwhelmed. I have heard my heart, and many other parts of me, scream that I cannot do something when I know I must. I hold myself back sometimes when I know I shouldn't. Sometimes I can look at myself in the mirror and figure out a multitude of things that I am not. It appears as if the Moira in all of us seems to dwell upon things we cannot do instead of what we are able to accomplish.

The second stanza sets the stage for the third and fourth. What does one see out the frame of a window? The world. Yes, and in Moira's eyes, the world was quite bright once upon a time, as it generally seems to be. However, her life has taken on darker days, so there she is, Moira, hopelessly looking out in the world behind a veil of sickening hopelessness. This is not far from what some people do when things are hard, they sit there and dwell on what they've done wrong instead of making it right again.

There is an effective use of structure in both the third, fourth, and fifth stanza. Even though there is no pause between the stanzas, it is important to take note of the wordings between the splits and their meanings compared to them in a whole phrase. "And the one tree," is a very lonesome image that plays off of the desolation of night. However, it is stated in the next stanza that it is "Untouched by blight." This, this single tree, which at first seems to be nothing more than just another dark thing in the world, is really something different, something that may hold some hope after all. There is another such split between the final two stanzas, with "An anguish impossible to compare", once again pulling the strings of hopelessness, followed immediately by, "Until this lucky day." These two splits are not noticeable if one does not see the text of the poems. However, they speak volumes for the meaning. They are both shifts in the poem where the speaker tells of Moira tries to shake off any optimism that she has to return to her darker feelings, but she realizes that this is exactly what she wants, and what she needs.

Backtracking one line, "Offers a fruit you do not refuse," is yet another saying of how Moira is dwelling on what she is unable to accomplish, even with the tree, who seems to involuntarily droop one of it's branches so that Moira may feed off of it's life bearing fruit. Moira takes the fruit, but the speaker brings a confounding final reflection on the entire situation. He sees Moira holding the fruit, but there is still a dilemma, the fact that she must decide whether to take this offering from mother nature or to discard it like she has the rest of her hopes. Is the fruit heavy, and will it only bring her more sadness by taking her out of her hopelessness for a short time, or is it light, and will this be just what she needs to brighten her day? In the end, Moira's path seems clear. Once again, the structure of the poem clarifies the meaning with the final line "So light: is there more to wish for?" Moira obviously sees the goodness in this gift from nature, maybe even God, but she openly questions if her taking it will be of any good, and I for one believe that she discarded the fruit and went on her wretched way.

So why does one introduce such a disturbing character as Moira? She is us. In some way, shape, or form, she is all of us. We all hold sadness within us. We all give up on everything every now and then. We all seek pity and attention. Some of us dwell on life and tragedy more than others, but we are all Moira. She has taken the most extreme path of sorrow, and as it says in the beginning as it implies in the end, nothing really matters to her anymore, not even a gift from some higher or supernatural being. Yes, I can see Moira in me almost as if I was looking into my eyes in my reflection in the mirror. There she is, trudging away down the muddy path covered with dead and dried up leaves. I can see her walking through me, though fortunately she doesn't visit nearly as often as she used to.

Take one step back and read some good poetry.

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