By Richard Wilbur
A ball will bounce; but less and less. It's not
A light-hearted thing, resents its own resilience.
Falling is what it loves, and the earth falls
So in our hearts from brilliance,
Settles and is forgot.
It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls
To shake our gravity up. Whee, in the air
The balls roll around, wheel on his wheeling hands,
Learning the ways of lightness, alter to spheres
Grazing his finger ends,
Cling to their courses there,
Swinging a small heaven about his ears.
But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all
Than the earth regained, and still and sole within
The spin of worlds, with a gesture sure and noble
He reels that heaven in,
Landing it ball by ball,
And trades it all for a broom, a plate, a table.
Oh, on his toe the table is turning, the broom's
Balancing up on his nose, and the plate whirls
On the tip of the broom! Damn, what a show, we cry:
The boys stamp, and the girls
Shriek, and the drum booms
And all come down, and he bows and says good-bye.
If the juggler is tired now, if the broom stands
In the dust again, if the table starts to drop
Through the daily dark again, and though the plate
Lies flat on the table top,
For him we batter our hands
Who has won for once over the world's weight.
Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Juggler” is a piece of literature that is both compelling and thought provoking. It forces the reader to imagine a juggling show and the power the performer has over the audience. While this poem may be difficult to understand at first, it is worth every second of analysis to reach the underlying theme: The world may cause sadness and destruction but we have to appreciate the good tomes when they’re here.
By breaking down the stanzas, Wilbur’s unique use of imagery, sounds, and diction can be understood. The first stanza talks about how the more familiar humans are with the world, the less special it seems. For example, he uses words such as “resilience” and “brilliance” but then ends with how it all “settles and is forgot [ten]”. The second stanza shows that the juggler is in complete control: the balls “graze his finger ends” and “cling” to him. The third stanza is when the juggler is finishing his amazing act and exchanges the balls for domestic items. In addition, through the first line, “But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all than the earth regained”, Wilbur is expressing the idea that it is easier to think of heaven than life right now. The fourth stanza invites the reader to appreciate what the juggler has done however; the aprubtness of the end of the show illustrates how quickly we are to forger the good things. Finally, in the last stanza the juggler gained human emotions and it learned that life may be hard but there are moments of happiness: “For him we batter our hands, who has won for once the world’s weight”.
Throughout this poem there are intense shifts that help to understand the message the author is portraying. One of the most obvious shifts is that of gravity. The first stanza the “ball” is at rest, in the second it’s going up and in the third it is at max height. Through the fourth and fifth stanza the ball is slowing falling until it lands rather abrupt. There is also the change in energy levels. The second stanza contains language that portrays the highest of energy levels with the third being a little more gently all the way to the fifth stanza where things completely calm down and we see that “the juggler is tired now”. In addition, in the beginning of the poem the juggler is seen as someone who defies the natural because of the line where he is described as “sky blue” giving off a feeling of anti gravity on earth. However, in the final stanza the juggler gains more human traits when he becomes tired at the end of his act.
It is evident through words such as "won', "sure", and "noble" that the juggler has gained admiration from the audience and is thought of in a positive light. The sounds incorporated in the poem add a clue to the authors purpose. In the second stanza, the word "whee" in the line "whee in the air" gives off a feeling of joy and jubulation. The "shriek" and "boom" of the audience in the fourth stanza alert the reader to the sounds of admiration and appreciation. Also, the rhyme scheme ABCBAC is similar to that of the rhythm of juggling.
This poem can be seen as a wake up call to enjoy life . I picked out the key phrases that i believe convey the underlying theme:
the earth falls (3)
So in our hearts from brilliance (4)
settles and is forgot. (5)
It takes a sky blue juggler with five red balls (6)
To shake our gravity up. (7)
But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all (13)
Than the earth regained. (14)
Damn, what a show, we cry: (21)
Who has won for once over the world's weight (30).
Just as this poem urges you to appreciate the small joys, so do I.
"The Quiet Machine"
By Ada Limon
I'm learning so many different ways to be quiet. There's how I stand in the law, thats one way. There's also how I stand in the field across from the street, that's another way because I'm farther from people and therefore more likely to be alone. There's how I don't answer the phone, and how I sometimes like to lie down on the floor in the kitchen and pretend I'm not home when people knock. There's daytime silent when I stare, and nighttime silent when I do things. There's shower silent and bath silent and California silent and Kentucky silent and car silent and then there's the silence that comes back, a million times bigger than me, sneaks into my bones and wails and wails and wails until I can't be quiet anymore. That's how this machine works.
Ada Limon’s poetry book “Bright Dead Things” contains many poems written in a paragraph format. I have always found these poems to be incredibly interesting and full of emotions. Throughout this poem she reveals her quiet time, times in her life she prefers to stay silent. It shows a lot about her personality and who she is.
The repetition of the word “silent” draws in the reader. I constantly wanted to read what the next reasoning for staying silent was. It leaves you wondering why she stays silent in some of these situations. For example, I’m curious why she “like(s)to lie down on the floor in the kitchen and pretend I’m not home when people knock”. After analyzing this poet for months, I have started to understand the deep emotions Limon feels. Through her portrayal of experiences and her reactions, it is always very relatable.
The last few lines are extremely impassioned and contain heavy, deep emotions. She uses hyperbole when saying the silence returns “a million times bigger than me”. Limon allows the silence to get the better of her and become bigger than her. Another poetic device she uses is personification. The silence sneaks into her bones and it cries. I believe she is referring to herself and the breaking point. Limon has taken as much as she can handle and it seems like she can’t do anything but cry.
This poem can be extremely relatable to those who are introverts or live with a large amount of silence. Limon has many times and many different ways of being quiet. Sometimes the silence gets the best of her and the only way she can handle it is by letting her silence escape in the form of wails and tears. I enjoy this poem and her many others because of the deep emotion and feeling she expresses.
"How To Triumph Like A Girl"
By Ada Limon
I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest, I like
that they’re ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
Don’t you want to believe it?
Don’t you want to tug my shirt and see
the huge beating genius machine
that thinks, no, it knows,
it’s going to come in first.
Limon wrote this poem around the idea of the Kentucky Derby . She has often said there is an undeniable connection between her and animals. She relates to the femaleness of the huge animal and all that it embodies by saying, “as if this big dangerous animal is also a part of me”. It is evident that Limon has power and soul inside of her “that thinks, no, it knows, it's going to come in first”. The author uses diction to her advantage in that she creates a heightened sense of hope and competitiveness. With phrases such as “huge beating genius” and “delicate skin” she increases the contrast between human and animal with specific word choice.
Limon is saying, if a female racehorse can do it, so can she. She wrote the poem to encourage “anyone who's in need of a reason to fight their way across that finish line”. While there is a big difference between horse and human, Limon, gives you a sense of hope. The thought that ‘if they can do it so can I’ enters my head and i paint a picture of a scenario where i stand strong and tall. I as the reader felt empowered and enough. I am just enough because somewhere deep inside of me is the fierceness to get the job done,
Limon uses imagery to allow the reader to imagine the power behind the horse. She uses the phrase “lady horse swagger” and i immediately picture a horse that is confident in their whole selves. Shortly after, Limon writes, “Ears up girls, ears up!”, once again picturing the horses on their victory trot. “The delicate skin of my body”, goes to portray the tenderness of human versus the “heavy with blood” intense, horse heart. The imagery makes this poem come alive.
Finally, one of the most crucial elements that went into making this poem as powerful as it is, is the way the author used second person “you”, She was able to grab your attention with, “Don't you want to believe it” by asking an almost rhetorical question, that forces yourself to evaluate your thoughts on the powerfulness of females. Through this poem and the poetic elements used, Limon created a fan to the flame of GIRL POWER.
"In A Mexican Restaurant I Recall How Much You Upset Me"
By Ada Limon
Tonight over casual conversation,
words brought you in or out
from where I keep you,
and you were my stepmom again
and I was telling some of his family,
my family now, how it was
to have you as a mother figure
all growing up: you the keeper of lists,
you the flag in the moon, and the moon,
you the garden and the grave,
you who I held as the last air left.
And then you were what? What then?
Oh body where do we keep it?
Oh how I don't offer enough.
In one sentence, in a Mexican restaurant,
you were alive, and then dead again,
and then we had a margarita. That can't be
enough, can it? What do you want me to say?
Sometimes you were mean.
Sometimes I was angry:
you left me when I was 15,
you sent my dog to the pound,
you hung up on my brother.
But love is impossible and it goes on
despite the impossible. You're the muscle
I cut from the bone and still the bone
remembers, still it wants (so much, it wants)
the flesh back, the real thing,
if only to rail against it, if only
to argue and fight, if only to miss
a solve-able absence.
Ada Limón has a way with words that always makes me want to remind the people in my life how much I love them. She packs her poems with relatable experiences, wise lessons, and a myriad of emotions. I think it's important to note the title of her book of poems, "Bright Dead Things", ecspecially in relation to this poem in particular. From what I can tell, she has experienced death in many ways. With the stanzas she writes, these things that are no longer, become real again: bright, living, and breathing. In this poem she's essentially writing to her stepmothers memory because she is gone, yet in a way she brings her to life: "in a Mexican restaurant I remember how much you upset me".
From analyzing a few of Limóns poems, I've noticed a pattern. Limón wastes no words: every stanza, every line, down to every sentence is spent pouring her heart out, sometimes for the reader but sometimes for the subject. I've also noticed that she likes to end her poems with what she's learned from her experiences. For this poem in particular she learned that, "Love is impossible and it goes on despite the impossible". What Limón means by this is that love is hard and messy and disappoints you, but despite all that it still goes on. She didn't always get along with her stepmom and her death was not easy, despite that, Limón still loves and misses her.
In many of her poems, Limon uses 'you' instead of he or she.The second person point of view not only changes the tone of the poem, it changes the dynamic. The poem is activated by the direct address. It feels more present, less remembered. And even though we know the “you” in the poem is not directly "us", or the reader, we can’t help but feel spoken to. It creates a serene feeling of intimacy between Limon, the subject, and we as the readers.
Limon creates these strong emotions using questions and metaphors. Throughout the poem she is asking her deceased stepmom what she though of it all, death and the answer to "What now?". Her comparison to "the garde" and "the grave" indicate that good htings came from her relatisnhip with her stepmom, however, thats not how it would always be.
The last seven lines are so very powerful. Limon makes it clear that she tries her hardest to stop missing her stepmom, she just cant. The line, "If only to miss a solve-able absence" made me stop and reevaluate relationships in my life. I can potentially fix wrongs with people or make that effort to end the miserable misery of missing someone but Limon doesnt have that choice. Once again, im learning something from her: relationships may not always be perfect but appreciate your loved ones because we all have unknown experation dates.
"The Problem With Travel"
By Ada Limón
Every time I'm in an airport,
I think I should drastically
change my life: Kill the kid stuff,
start to act my numbers, set fire
to the clutter and creep below
the radar like an escaped canine
sneaking along the fence line.
I'd be cable-knitted to the hilt,
beautiful beyond buying, believe in
the maker and fix my problems
with prayer and property.
Then, I think of you, home
with the dog, the field full
of purple pop-ups-- we're small and
flawed, but I want to be
who I am, going where
I'm going, all over again.
The poem “The Problem With Travel” is another fantastically well-written poem by Ada Limon. This poem about the opportunities that travel brings is extremely relatable. She talks about the way she feels in an airport and I think everyone knows what she’s talking about: it feels like you can go anywhere and be anybody. Once you realize you can go anywhere, your imagination is racing to create the perfect getaway but Limon pulls us all back into reality. No longer is a far away land the best place to be; home is. In the end, I don’t think most people would have the courage or the raw want to change every thing about their life.
Through her use of details and imagery and also unique tone, the words of Ada Limon transform a relatable poem into that leaves the reader with a bit of advice. Through out the poem she discusses an airport and her imagination runs wild with all the things she would do. She is snapped back into reality with the thought of “you” and the realization that she has everything she wants. Although it’s not what she imagines and she thinks, “we’re small and flawed”, home is where she is supposed to be.
By placing specific details and imagery into her poem, Limon paints a scene with words. For example, “ escaped canine sneaking against the fence line” and “field full of purple pop-ups” both allow the reader to interact with her poem in their own minds thus making it even more relatable. In addition, the tone the author uses is somewhat humors and imaginative. She uses phrases such as, “Kill the kid stuff” and “start to act my numbers” to make the beginning of the poem seem lighthearted before she digs deep into the love she has for herself, home, and “you”.
The last three lines of this poem are my favorite because they sum up the message she was trying to express: “but I want to be who I am, going where I’m going, all over again”. It struck me that although we love the feeling we get while traveling that we could be anybody, outside of our imagination we know how much we love home and those we share it with. When the opportunity arises for us to reinvent ourselves, it can be easy to immediately see all of our flaws, yet upon deeper thinking we can come to the realization we are perfect just the way we are.
No shoes and glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.
The poem “Before” by Ava Limón is a reminder that every human being needs once in awhile to enjoy life while its still here. Through her use of memories and analogies, she created the feeling of remorse for what is gone but also hope for what is to come. This poem uses specific word choice and imagery to allow the reader to feel the strong emotions Limón intended for. After reading this poem, I believe the author’s purpose is achieved: to make the reader appreciate the times they have now.
The author used the combination of imagery and the connotation of words to make you feel a specific type of way before she directly expressed her feelings. In the beginning of the poem, Limón uses words like “glossy” that give off the feeling of clean and wholeness. Then there is a shift and the words become repetitive and negative. Words like “garbage”, “chain”, “rough wind”, and “survival” all make the poems tone turn dark and lonely. In the last sentence, she uses the phrase “hazardous bliss” to create a combination of both the goodness in the beginning and the pain in the end.
The organization of this poem is very significant in understanding the theme. It begins with a memory, moves onto a list of events, and ends with a summary. There is an evident shift between “Harley at seven years old” and “Before the divorce”. After the shift begins a list of events or changes that happened in the poet’s life. It starts with big events and descends into specific, smaller instances Limón experienced. She then compares what she went through to Henno Road and the ruggedness of it all. And at the very end she reflects on the changes by giving advice to truly live in the moment before it’s all gone away.
I can very easily understand this poem because of the similar events in my life. I love the way Limón, in all of her poems, makes it so convenient to feel the emotions she felt and then uses that to live life differently. Whether it is appreciating love or life as it was before, it is interesting to see the correlation between the two poems “Before” and “The Unconditional”. I identify with this poem because of my parents divorce and my own desire to go back to the way things have been before. It’s hard, really hard, to let go of the past and come to terms with the future looking differently. It is so easy to get in the mindset of that’s how it was before and that’s how it needs to be now. Limón reminds us that there is no going back but there is a chance to make the most of the future.
Ada Limón, 1976
“The Conditional” by Ada Limón, is a deep, dramatic poem about a one true love. She knows that if the world was no more, the time she had with her love was enough.
This poem has a unique contrast between what is and isn’t everlasting. She uses comparisons such as, “Say the moon becomes an icy pit” to show that things may go wrong be she wouldn’t change a thing. Limón imagines the world is falling apart and the time she can spend with her love is dwindling. She wants him to say he would spend his last moments with her, watching the world crumble away.
The title of this poem “The Conditional”, embodies the true meaning of her wishes. It is significant because no matter what she wants conditional love. The title is also ironic because the poet is talking about many things that aren’t conditional or everlasting. She uses unconditional things to contrast with the one true undying, unending theme: love.
From the beginning of the poem repetition is used. She starts almost every line with “Say..”. I believe the repetition is what makes this poem so powerful. It reinforces the idea of agreeing with the poet in that difficult things may happen but their love still stands.
This poem gives me an odd sense of hope. As a child of divorce, I haven’t really known love to be unconditional. From my earliest memory, love was never enough. Limón's words show me that, with the right person, love doesn’t have to end. It’s very peculiar to learn that even though situations may become difficult or the world may start falling apart, love withholds.
I thought this poem was very well written. I loved how the poet made the poem personal by including details from her own relationship while also allowing others to relate to her feelings. The poem makes you take a look into your life and although it’s meant to question her love, it makes you question the loves in your life, romantic relationships or family.