Beloved Sonnet

My rose

In a field of darkness there is one light

Alone I seek to grow this lonely rose

Promise of future petals that are white

My love is dirt from which my flower grows,

Await my rose’s bloom all so fast

My rose’s beauty alike Polaris

With powers to erase my neglected past 

Trauma I hope it will not inherit.

Oh no!–the wicked Devil does arrive

His breath possesses the heart of fire

My rose has become his eye of desire

He shouts, “I need your rose to stay alive,

For I will pay you all your heart desires!”

I slit the stem of my love and she dies…

For my Beloved blog post, I decided to write a sonnet depicting the situation that Sethe is put in when she decides to kill Beloved. Sethe is the speaker, and the object of the poem “the rose” is representative of beloved. The motif I payed close attention to throughout the book was birth and pregnancy, which was meant to portray how the next generation symbolized hope. This is a reason why I was so drawn to Sethe’s incredible dilemma.

I wanted to capture a situation in which someone would kill something that they loved to save it. The image I had in my head was a clearing in a forest that had only one flower growing in it amongst all of the grass. Before the flower ever gets a chance to bloom, fire surrounds it. The only way to “save” that flower so that it can eventually blossom is to cut its stem like slitting a throat.

Cosmic Love

Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love” has been with me for a long time now. From the first time I let this song fill my ears, Florence’s heart-wrenching words and explosive tone have taken me to a completely different world. It is both powerful and sentimental, beautiful and tragic. Out of all the songs I have listened to, this one is the closest to poetry.

The very first lines of the song are:

A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes

I screamed aloud, as it tore through them

And now it’s left me blind

Here, Florence Welch is describing how she was completely blinded by her love for this individual. Using several elegantly crafted metaphors, Welch compares her blindness by love to a star that fell from her love’s heart and right into her eyes. The metaphors help to build an image of not only the experience, but of the feeling. This is one of the fundamental qualities of poetry.

In the second verse, Welch sings:

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat

I tried to find the sound

But then it stopped, till I was in the darkness

So darkness I became

In this stanza, Welch is illustrating her feelings of depression and hopelessness that her relationship has led her to. She spent so long in the dark searching for love, that when her love eventually left her, she was still stuck there. The repetition of the word “darkness” emphasises her feelings of despair. The repetition of words in this way is a key characteristic of poetry that I have seen in many other famous works.

In a heart-wrenching bridge, Welch sings:

I took the stars from our eyes, and then I made a map

And knew that somehow I could find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you

In contrast to Welch’s previous lines that describe feelings of blindness and despair, this stanza holds a spark of hopefulness in it. This is the turning part of the poem, where she decides that she will love this individual, despite the darkness that he has pulled her into. She realizes that he is just as lost as she is, and she will be there with him, in the darkest of times. Like in previous stanzas, this bridge represents the climax of an experience, and tells the story right at its core. That is a key element of poetry.

Finally, in a beautifully powerful chorus, Welch sings:

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out

You left me in the dark

No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight

In the shadow of your heart

This chorus is arguably the most powerful stanza in the entire song. It elegantly describes her feelings of being left in despair and depression from a relationship but wanting to stay in that relationship nevertheless. By comparing her emotions to various interstellar forces all throughout the song, Welch recounts her experience in a way that people will understand. Unlike simple stories, or artless information, experiences and emotions are harder to explain. That is why Welch’s use of understandable analogies is truly helpful to the reader of the poem.

All in all, I feel that this song is a true example of poetry. The stunning diction, rich metaphors, and powerful structure all contribute to the poetic element of this song. “Cosmic Love” illustrates not only a story, but an experience.

Cosmic Love

Time after Time after Time and Again

The novel Beloved is a story of an escaped slave and her new twisted reality that is weaved into her even more twisted past. The story of Sethe and her family connects very well to the song Time after Time by Cyndi Lauper.

Time after Time begins with the lyrics:

“Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new
Flashback, warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcase of memories”

Beloved is written in a very interesting and intricate way where different perspectives from the past and present are used to complete a story. The novel goes, quite literally, back and forth between the past and the present which smoothly bridges to Lauper’s song. The part in the first verse which says “suitcase of memories” especially connects to Paul D’s tin box which held his memories.

The second verse stated,

“Sometimes you picture me
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said
Then you say, “go slow”
And I fall behind
The second hand unwinds”

That part strongly reminded me of when Beloved recalled when Sethe left her alone on what we think is the slave ship. The verse obviously differs from the actual event Beloved remembered but it ties into the loneliness and the feeling of being abandoned.

Although the connection is very simple, the theme of the song surrounds the topics of past, present, and love. All of those things are largely important in Beloved as well.

Do Ghosts Have a Place in History?

Often, when we look for historical fiction books, we look for stories that seem real. We look for stories that make the past seem vivid and tangible.

I didn’t expect to find this in Beloved. One of the most important elements of Morrison’s novel is Beloved, a ghostly presence who haunts Sethe as a constant reminder of the horrors of slavery. I don’t believe in ghosts, and so I thought that the intangible Beloved would serve as a distraction of the real-life horrors the book touches on.

But Beloved is part of Sethe’s story. By writing about Beloved, Morrison managed to write about Sethe as a person, rather than just writing about her experiences. And in writing about a person, Morrison was able to describe the haunting impacts of those experiences.

Toni Morrison story was one with depth. It doesn’t just help us to understand history — it creates empathy.

Tiny Tobacco Box

One of my favorite examples of figurative language used in the novel is when Paul D describes his heart as a “tin tobacco box.” After his traumatizing experiences at Sweet Home and, especially, at the prison camp in Georgia, he locks away his feelings and horrors from his past in this box, which, by the time Paul D arrives at 124, “rusted” over completely.

This is a comment on trauma. This way of dealing with trauma is so different then how Sethe deals with trauma. I thought it was so interesting that Paul D has to completely cut off his past whereas Sethe can’t seem to escape her own past. I thought the metaphor of a box rusted over was a very thought out way to express Paul D’s emotions.

By hiding from his emotions, Paul D hopes to preserve himself from further psychological damage. Paul D sacrifices much of his humanity by letting go of his feelings and gives up much of his self by repressing his memories.

Trauma is unique for every person even when they share some similar situations. Toni Morrison does a wonderful job of representing how trauma is a completely personal experience.

What Is Migration?

Exit West showed us a world where people are migrating by the masses. They are moving across the world by literally stepping through a door. Exit West has showed us the struggle of immigration without the journey of immigration. Many who are not so keen on immigration, or specifically illegal immigration, gain more empathy when they put the journey of the immigrants into consideration, but this story has showed a different side. Exit West has showed the commonality between multitudes of people. That even without the long journey of migration, it is still incredibly hard to move through change and leave life as you know, or to witness others move while one seemingly stays stagnant. Exist West has showed its audience that there is truly not such thing as stagnation or true stability.

Exit West has stories of those that physically moved continuously like Nadia and Saeed and stories of those that did not move at all like the elderly man in Amsterdam, or the older woman in Palo Alto. At first glance, it seems like one is moving while the other is not, but the truth is quite the opposite. The elderly man in Amsterdam was a witness to many components in life migrating or changing: his lover leaving, his father dying, the gain of a new love, while he still remained constant in other ways. He stayed in the same place, never stopped smoking cigarettes, he never stopped hanging out on his balcony. In Saeed’s case, it seemed that everything changed. He lost both of his parents, moved into the western world, and watched his relationship with Nadia deteriorate. But he also had things he clung onto that added stability into his life. He prayed, went to sleep next to Nadia every night, and he worked.

I believe the true thesis of Exit West is best said in the quote from the elderly woman in Palo Alto. She said, “… everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it. We are all migrants through time.” Mohsin Hamid beautifully detailed that we are far more similar than we think, although our differences are still prime parts our identities as well. But if we see ourselves in the migrants we hear of everyday and keep in mind our own migrations, although they may not be as intense or life altering, then we would be so much closer to universal understanding.

Schrodinger’s Jew: Exit West and Jewish Migration

I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating exactly how Jewish I am. I promise, I am bringing this up for a reason.

I contemplate how Jewish I am because it’s not exactly a clear cut answer, as it it for most people. My mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish, so I would be 50% Jewish, right? Except Judaism traditionally is passed down through the mother’s line. So I’m 0% Jewish. Except that alongside Christmas and Easter, my family celebrates Hanukkah and Passover. My last name is very Jewish; it roughly means “date branch” in Hebrew. The vast majority of my family migrated to the United States long before the Holocaust, but not all. I will never know who those distant relatives were, or if I would have ever gotten the chance to meet them. They would have been so, so distant, but I still wonder.

My family, both sides of it, is frequently obsessed with genealogy. We can trace my mother’s family all the way back to the United Kingdom and Ireland. In fact, a fun anecdote I was told as a child is that not only were my ancestors on the Mayflower, my great-great-great-however-many-greats grandfather fell off the Mayflower and had to be rescued. With my father’s side, however, it’s not so easy.

We can trace my father’s family back decently far for a Jewish family. Inevitably though, as many Jewish families do, we end up hitting a dead end: we simply have no idea what country we are actually from. Not only that, those places we would be from have changed throughout the years. Depending on when you look, I could be Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, or Latvian. With my mother’s side, we know most of my relatives were from Scotland and Ireland. We can trace exactly where they were and where they went. With my father’s side, however, all I know is that I am vaguely Eastern European. That’s it. I have no more information.

Towards the end of Exit West, friction between Saeed and Nadia starts up as to exactly how much they want to stay connected to their homeland. As Nadia becomes more and more separated, Saeed in turn yearns for connection with other Middle Eastern migrants. This friction is a part of their inevitable conclusion, which I won’t say because we’re not supposed to have finished the book yet. Despite their different reactions to migration, however, one thing is clear: their home is not their home anymore, no matter how much they may or may not want it to be.

I never got to choose how much I wanted to connect with my roots. I wear green for St. Patrick’s Day. My parents went and visited the place in Scotland my mother’s family comes from. I even chose a Celtic name for myself. But I don’t get those same things on my father’s side.

For all it matters, I’m a practicing Unitarian Universalist who is an active and passionate member of Unity Temple’s youth group. UUism is neither Christian nor Jewish; indeed, it was chosen by my family because it is a religion where my parents can still exist in the faiths of their childhood while still attending the same church.

I don’t know how Jewish I am. I’m not even sure it’s my decision to make. I’m stuck in a strange limbo between Jew and goy. I’m both and neither at the same time. I’m less Jewish than my Jewish friends, but more Jewish than my friends of other faiths. I’m not not Jewish, but what does that really do for me? At the end of the day, though, it’s not really a question of how Jewish I am. It’s about this sense of home that I don’t get to have. It’s about the fact that I more-or-less get to choose whether I am affected by anti-Semitism. It’s about me playing three-way tug-of-war with religion while not believing in a God. I can see it Saeed and I can see it in Nadia, being pulled every which way, not knowing which direction is right for you, endlessly straining to stay in the middle and always, always failing.