Here is a poem Juan Ramón Jiménez wrote for his mother in her extreme old age:I wish I could carry you in my arms
from your life to nothingness
the way you carried me, when I was a child,
to the cradle from your breasts.
Notice the role of desire: I wish. The loving dialogue, a man speaking to his mother, giving back the care he received. The powerful, defiant transformations: the poet turns approaching death into a woman’s breasts, and nothingness into a cradle. Notice too the near hopelessness of the desire and the way the poem holds out, not eliminating hopelessness but never defeated, maintaining life in the face of annihilation. This poem is a primary political document. In addition to and because of its rich human meanings, it has greater relevance to public action than any work of political philosophy or political science, any constitution, bill of rights, speech, or policy paper. In fact, a society’s health might be measured by how it understands and admits that such a poem is essential to sound social organization.
- The opening of a great article by A.F. Moritz in the November 2009 issue of Poetry. Read the whole thing here.