Saturday, October 11, 2008

"The Mole"

Here is yet one
more life that we see only from outside
from the outside

not in itself but later
in signs of its going
a reminder
in the spring daylight

it happened when we were not noticing
and so close to us
that we might not have been here
disregarded as we were

see where we have walked
the earth has risen again
out of its darkness
where it has been recognized
without being seen
known by touch
of the blind velvet fingers
the wise nails
descendants of roots and water

we have seen them
only in death and in pictures
opened from darkness afterward

but here the earth
has been touched and raised
eye has not seen it come
ear has not heard
the famous fur
the moment that finds its way
in the dark without us

by W.S.Merwin
From The Shadow of Sirius

After Leon’s topical post in memory of the passing of Paul Newman, mine comes oddly off timing, somewhat late, but the reasons of it being late, I will let you discover in this poem on your own. :)

“The Mole”, being the title of this poem, we read about how we do not actually see the mole. All we notice are the “signs” The raised soil of the earth that it has left behind, as it burrows underneath the ground, underneath our feet.

This poem, however, is more than just about the mole. Reading carefully, this poem is about “one/ more life that we see only from outside”. Although the word “one” refers to the mole, the use of enjambment or run-on line emphasizes that there is “more life” here that just the mole. Apparently, the word “one” encapsulates this ambiguity, that there is more what we “see only from outside”, the literal words of the poem.

We read that this life “happened when we were not noticing”, and that it works ever “so close to us/ that we might not have been here”. Indeed, the mole digs with its “blind velvet fingers” deep down in the “darkness” underground, close to our feet, yet disregarding that we are even there at all. We also read that “the earth has risen again/ out of its darkness”. Here, we see the ambiguity of the poem again. The earth, as raised by the mole, and the earth that “has risen”, not just out the “darkness” from underground, but out from the “darkness” to the present “spring daylight”.

Yes, this poem is also about spring, about the life of spring, which grows “when we were not noticing”. This is the beauty and craft of this poem, its ambiguity, and the suggestiveness with which it brings together the mole in its unseen ways and that of spring, as the life buried underneath the “darkness” of winter now springs out before us. It is this magic of the unseen, as well as the magic of this poem that the mole, not typically the most poetic creature one writes about, becomes enjoined with spring. Like the humble mole, the poem, quiet and unintrusive, goes about without any commas, full stops or punctuation, allowing the words to speak and come alive on their own. This absence of punctuation is also what gives the poem its ambiguity

Finally, the word “outside”, repeated twice at the beginning, both coming at the end of the lines, points out that we, as readers and as humans, stand “outside”. But, it also on this “outside” that we begin to quietly marvel at the mystery of nature, “touched” by its gentle, invisible lightness, as that of this poem.

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Anonymous Jimmy Foo said...


Stumbled upon this blog through bibliobibuli. Nice! Do check out my new site where I let my creative juices flow.


12:21 AM, October 13, 2008  
Blogger Leon Wing said...

I like the way Merwin puts it, like this:

...we see only from outside/from the outside

Instead of saying what everyone else would, like "inside, deeper and deeper", say, he's doing it the other way round, by repeating "from outside". We the observer is so 'outside' from the mole's tunnel, so far out, away, where he's deep deep inside.

This effect simply thrills this reader.

I also like the way he doesn't use commas, so that we are pleasantly surprised to find that what we think is a run-on is not; like in:

see where we have walked
the earth has risen again

I read it, at first, as 'we walked the earth', thinking 'walked' is a run-on.

This also has the effect, on me, of feeling how the mole is digging and digging under the earth, going deeper or tunnelling underground.

8:52 AM, October 14, 2008  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

(Oops, my grammar there.)

Nice observations, Leon. Glad that you like the poem.

Yes, the absence of punctuation and the 'false' run-ons are just delightful, but I think they may also work in both ways, as run-ons and not run-ons, which as I noted, are part of their ambiguity and beauty. :)

PS. no reply yet from someone I asked to join in, probably busy. And I forgot to ask Pey again. How forgetful.

1:27 AM, October 15, 2008  
Blogger Wan Nor Azriq said...

This is a very interesting blog.It's great to see a blog by a Malaysian poetry lover,which is hard to find on the net. :)

check out my blog if you have the time.Thank you.

12:39 PM, October 26, 2008  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

Thanks for your kind words. I love your blog too!

12:33 AM, October 31, 2008  

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