William Matthews’s “Hope” consists of five three-line, free-verse stanzas that examine the swift passage of time, the weight of mortality, and the cycle of life. The relationships between father and daughter and humanity and nature are examined simultaneously and are linked by the poem’s assertion that time both obliterates and facilitates these relationships. The poem begins by listing two ambitions of the poem’s protagonist: “Beautiful floors and a lively/ daughter.” By juxtaposing these two unlike desires the poem propounds that humans are at once preoccupied with frivolity and concerned with posterity, perhaps even some form of provisional immortality. Based on these assertions, Matthews suggests to the reader that despite the fact that all people must die, there is hope not only in desires but also in fulfillment of the most benevolent ambitions.
The two ambitions spelled out in the first stanza are elaborated upon in the second stanza. The desires of the protagonist are made more complex, and the story and circumstance of life become more complicated: “that the dear piñata of her head/ not loose its bounty.” The imagery here is not only playful but also serious, as it points to the trepidation and helplessness parents and caregivers—humanity as a whole—feel as they watch the continuance of their life force venture out into the world. The second stanza also notes the careful, minute precautions many take so those they love remain unharmed: “the girl’s/ father scored the soles...
(The entire section is 621 words.)