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The Testimony Of Light Analysis

Author: poem of Carolyn Forché Type: poem Views: 0

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Our life is a fire dampened, or a fire shut up in stone.
                        --Jacob Boehme, De Incarnatione Verbi

Outside everything visible and invisible a blazing maple.
Daybreak: a seam at the curve of the world.  The trousered legs of the women
They held their arms in front of them like ghosts.

The coal bones of the house clinked in a kimono of smoke.
An attention hovered over the dream where the world had been.

For if Hiroshima in the morning, after the bomb has fallen,
        is like a dream, one must ask whose dream it is. {1}

Must understand how not to speak would carry it with us.
With bones put into rice bowls.
While the baby crawled over its dead mother seeking milk.

Muga-muchu {2}: without self, without center.  Thrown up in the sky by a wind.

The way back is lost, the one obsession.
The worst is over.
The worst is yet to come.

1--...is the question asked by Peter Schwenger in Letter Bomb.
      Nuclear Holocaust and the Exploding Word.
2--...is from Robert Jay Lifton's Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Forche’ is trying to get at the idea of the old China versus new China, not just as two periods of time divided by the bombing, but as two separate periods of time; one where women wore smoke kimonos and the other where women wear shimmering trousers. Both are illusions: one is made of smoke and the other is shimmering. The baby crawling over a dead mother looking for milk is a metaphor for the new China trying to be nourished by the ideas of the dead old China that is “dead” and will no longer be of any help. The new generation is what this poem ends with: the “yet to come,” which the author predicts will be the worst yet of the journey China has taken: reconstructing on its own without motherly guidance or help.
In this poem, everything is an illusion or masked, covered with smoke or shimmering and invisible. The opening idea of the poem “visible and invisible” is one that continue throughout as we see the author’s continued blurry line of what is real and what is not real. Another prominent theme is the theme of fire. In the first line, the outside is describes as a “blazing maple” as the bomb. However, after this, all that remains is the signs of fire, like “coal bones” and smoke. There is no actual fire left, just evidence of one. Evrything in the poem has a sense of being “after” and being surreal. It is a poem that ends with the very beginning of the road to recovery. .

| Posted on 2011-05-10 | by a guest

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