In Kumalau Tawali's poem “The Old Woman’s Message,” what does the speaker imply in the first five lines?
The speaker is a very old lady, who wistfully longs for her sons’ return. Polin and Manuai are her sons, who are away from her when she needs them the most. She is about to die and has “little breath left to wait for them.” So, through an unidentified person, she is sending a message to her sons exhorting them to come back to their dying mother. She says,
the ripe fruit falls and returns
to the trunk –
Here, “the ripe fruit” symbolizes her grown-up sons, while “the trunk” stands for the old mother herself. The comparison of sons and daughters to flowers, and parents to roots of a tree trunk is old and conventional. If not plucked, a ripe fruit has a tendency to fall down itself to the ground close to the tree trunk.
What the old mother implies is - now that her sons are able and self-dependent persons, and are educated and skilled enough to earn their livelihood, they must come back to her.
The mother, on the other hand, has lost the agility and grace of her youth. Both physically and mentally, she has grown infirm and dependent. She urgently needs the presence and support of her sons.
So, we see that by giving the example of a ripe fruit falling and returning to the trunk in her message, the old mother urges her sons to return to her. A tone of indignation can also be felt in these lines. It sounds as if the forlorn and disappointed mother is reminding her children that they should have returned by now by themselves, but they seem to have forgotten her.
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