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The Old Woman's Message Poem

From the poem, "The Old Woman's Message," by Kumalau Tawali, is the speaker happy with her sons' behavior?

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In the poem, the speaker is deeply grieved at her sons' indifference to her. The whole poem centers on a mother's appeal for reconciliation and connection with her sons before she dies.

But my sons, forgetful of me,

are like fruit borne by birds.

I see the sons of other women

returning. What is in their minds?

In her mind, the speaker cannot fathom the thoughtless apathy of her sons, so contrary to the filial loyalty shown by other women's sons. She uses a simile to describe her sons' estrangement from her; perhaps they are like 'fruit borne by birds.' Birds digest the fruit they eat, but the seeds in their fecal matter often land in another area. The speaker laments that her sons have allowed themselves to set down roots far away from her.

Already I sway like a dry falling leaf

I see with my hands-

oh tell Polin and Manuai to hurry

and come to my death feast.

The use of enjambment in the lines above lends an immediacy to the speaker's appeal. She is desperate to see her sons and entreats them to attend her 'death feast.' The feast reference is an interesting one; the poet's Pacific Islander roots may account for this singular mention. Papua New Guinea (where the poet was originally from) is part of the Pacific Islands, where different customs are observed for the Festival of the Dead. Read a description of one such festival in northern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

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