In "The Old Woman's Message" by Kumalau Tawali, what does the speaker order the addressed to do in the first five lines?

Expert Answers
liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Stick these words in your hair

and take them to Polin and Manuai

my sons:

the ripe fruit falls and returns

to the trunk - its mother."

These are the first five lines of the poem "The Old Woman's Message" by Kamalau Tawali. These particular lines can be read separately from the rest of the poem, as they stand as a cohesive sentence.

As you can see, in these lines, the speaker is ordering the listener to take a specific message to her two sons, named Polin and Manuai. The message is that "ripe fruit falls and returns to the trunk," which is its mother. Meaning, probably, that children should come back to their mother when she needs them: it's the natural thing to do, just like fruit falls naturally beneath the tree that has grown it.

The rest of the poem reveals that the speaker is growing thin and weak and is close to death, and she needs her sons to be near her. It seems to her that Polin and Manuai have forgotten about her, "like fruit borne by birds," and that they've drifted far away from her. The situation is frustrating to the speaker, who observes that other women's sons stay near their own mothers. A sense of longing and desperation fills the poem, which you can feel in those initial lines as the speaker gives the order to carry the message so heavy with imagery.