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This work is part of a series of poems that reflects on the questioning of one's religious belief.
The poem begins with the speaker waking in the night. The image of light and darkness has metaphorical connotations, with light representing God. The darkness here evokes a carnal, bodily entrapment: the "fell" of dark refers to an animal hide. The speaker has been struggling with the dark for "hours", which become "years" in the following lines.
His ability to communicate with God has been thwarted, as he mentions cries that have been sent like "dead letters".
In the second stanza, the speaker recognizes that the torment he experiences comes deep within him. The phrase "self yeast of spirit a dull dough sours" reflects this idea of the spirit being soured and unable to rise because of the dull dough that is the speaker's wretched form. He is condemned to experience his bodily rather than spiritual form: he is "bile" and "heartburn", destroyed from the inside by his lake of faith.
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