Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta by Reetika Vazirani

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(Poetry for Students)

Reetika Vazirani's poem "Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta" focuses on a mother figure, very possibly the poet's own mother. Indeed, Vazirani used the name Maya to denote her mother in previous poems. This poem was written before the poet conceived her son, which supports the assumption that she describes her own mother, who had given birth to a son and several daughters and was a widow, as is the speaker in the poem. No matter to whom the poet refers, the speaker is a mother, recounting her life experiences.

The poem makes allusions to Indian culture that are easily related to any society. Motherhood, after all, is a human condition. The love shown for the mother and the mother's reciprocal pride in her offspring can be understood no matter what part of the world the reader is from. Sadness underlies the images, such as mention of prejudice brought on by the dark skin color of the mother and her children. The sadness is concealed, however, by a happiness expressed through love, gifts given, and the bright colors of the silken sarongs.

"Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta" was first published in Prairie Schooner in 1998. It was reprinted in The 2000 Pushcart Prize Anthology, The New American Poets (2000), and Vazirani's second book of poetry, World Hotel (2002).


(Poetry for Students)

Stanza 1

"Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta" begins by making reference to a pattern in which one's mind can become stuck, in this instance, repeating the scenes of mistakes. The first line moves, without punctuation, into the second, "the revolving door of days." The imagined door turns around and around, replaying and cycling through errors over and over again. The feeling is not pleasant, but line 3 announces, "Now it's over," suggesting relief. In line 4, the speaker says, "There's no one point thank god in the turning world." Perhaps the speaker has not been caught in the trap of revolving doors, or errors. She was not stuck; she was "always moving." "Always moving" was sometimes tiring but also pleasant; the speaker says that she was also "laughing."

Despite the laughter, the circumstances of the speaker's life have been difficult: she is a "widow." The word "widow" is associated in the next line with the word "freedom," which is an unusual interpretation of matters. After mentioning her freedom, the speaker brings in the image of "Vidua paradisea," a small bird. The Latin name of this brownish finch translates to "paradise widow." This particular bird is often used as a pet, a caged bird, so the image is perhaps contradictory. It seems as though the speaker, as a widow, experiences a thwarted or restricted freedom. Perhaps in this metaphor the speaker is pointing out that the loss of a husband is difficult to endure but that there is a measure of freedom to be found in her new life and even pleasures to be enjoyed. Maybe the speaker felt like a caged bird when she was married but has been released in her widowhood. In lines 10 and 11, the speaker is flying free and happy "singly."

The speaker states that happiness was her "giraffe," an animal native to Africa. Happiness is linked here to the "face of Africa." The speaker may be remembering an experience of visiting Africa, a place where she found happiness. In lines 13 through 15, the mother ponders her children, remembering being pregnant with them, and speaks of "glamour days." This indicates a time of ease, when the mother had time to think of herself as a woman, to relax and read women's fashion magazines, such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan . In line 18, the speaker states, "We have made this world"; she follows with the word "brown" in line 19. Stopping at "world" suggests that the speaker feels that she and her children have made this world, possibly her personal world. Connecting "world" to "brown" in the sentence "We have made this world / brown" may be a reference to brown skin, linking back to Africa. A third interpretation could be that beautiful brown women have made the world or, more specifically, that they have made the world of glamour...

(The entire section is 1,336 words.)