Here is an explication du text for my last poem "Tout sur les larmes". Do people write explications du texte for their own poetry? This may be a first! But it was such a fun exercise, and I uncovered meanings I didn't even realize were there; it was like what Frost said about completing a poem, then being surprised by it and asking, "Now how did I know that?" It started out as a letter to explain the poem to a friend, and later, I edited it for this blog. What I hope to show is the sense of hope in this poem, which is found subtly in the first section, strongly suggested in the last, with only the middle section, the bridge, completely devoid of it. Secondarily, I would like to show how this poem was constructed, first as separate parts, then synthesized by actions that flowed from my subconscious.
In the first section of "Everything About Tears", I have just found in my grandson a window for releasing emotional pain, and he is comforting me like a mother, through his little pats on my back and shoulder. In the second part, I describe the "hole" I find myself in, where I am unable to cry or to feel; I am "emptied". In the third section, I'm making a choice, live or die, cry or feel nothing, drown under "water", in all those unshed tears--symbolized by rain in the second section--or rise into the bright light of consciousness and permit myself to grieve my losses. Finally, i will myself to dig down, back into the "hole"; but now I am outside it: I'm making "The Choice", as the title suggests, to dig until I find tears. The tears are in the "hole", which is myself: I have to dig through several layers of myself to find them: through ash (death and resurrection), terra firma (grounding principle), mud (depression), salt (essentiality, tears) river (the flow from life to death, possibly the river Styx), rock (hard barriers), then molten lava (passion, hot tears). But I do not care how hot it may get, how I might get burned: I must get at the tears because I know that grieving is the only way to get free of the "hole". We're left with the hope that the goal of grieving can be achieved and that it will free me from the potential of emotional death.
After writing the second poem, "How This Works", and getting an empathic response from a fellow poet and friend, I began to feel very sad about my condition and began to cry, not sobs, just tears rolling down my cheeks and dripping off my chin. The next day, because I had actually cried tears of grief, I realized that this poem could easily be related to the one I'd written the day before, "The Futility of Tears". It was then that I decided to write a third section, a resolution, and combine them into a single poem.
The title of the latter is completely ironic, as it means the opposite of what it says: of course tears are not futile. My mother, in spite of her flashbacks, will not allow herself to cry, and simply fights her memories and feelings. We might remember that she is now a great-grandmother, an elderly woman, who may not have the time or capacity to plumb her own depths, and we can thus have compassion for her. Her mother, my grandmother, who is most likely out of the picture in the present time of the poem, was an obnoxious drunk who taught her daughter "not to cry at funerals" but rather to bottle up or drug herself against her emotions. Now, if my grandmother was drunk "at her husband's" funeral and my mother was also there--"my mother socked her"--we realize that my mother was at her own father's funeral, a terrible thing in itself for a young woman, with the added sense of embarrassment at having her mother be "drunk and obnoxious". As for me, the third character in the first poem and now a grandmother myself, "i'm still crying as i watch Bambi," who represents the death or absence of the mother. Further, through my grandson's acceptance of my tears and his prescient ability to comfort me (like a mother), I am beginning to find my way out of this "hole" or emotional dead-space, as unrequited grief has kept me, my mother and her mother buried under the weight of painful memories.
In the third poem, "The Choice", I've found a way out of the "hole": I have to cry, and I compare and contrast the two options of crying or not crying and their consequences. Ultimately, I decide to bring my grief into the "sunlight" or into the open, to consciousness--"the eye...wakes up"-- and I will do what I must in order to have a breakthrough of my long buried grief. I must get tears to flow and, consequently, the feelings behind them. I am choosing the flashbacks driven away by my mother, I am feeling the feelings drunk away by my grandmother, and i'm going into those depths, even as i squat outside them, looking in. I have made my choice; I will dig myself toward the tears, I will spring them like a fount, I will free myself by feeling, which is the opposite of what my feminine ancestors have done. Because I have chosen the positive, entering the "sunlight" or action, and not the negative, drowning by "water" or inaction, there is a sense of renewed purpose and enlightenment, and the reader is left hoping, if not knowing that I might well succeed.