Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1676
In the first short section of “A Rebirth,” the speaker sets up the theme of her poem, that of rebirth. She first describes the general emotion that weaves through her many births and deaths. Then she defines the power of the residue of those changes that affects the people who become involved in her many transformations.
She states that her life is a dark sign, or a foreboding message, almost as if she is warning the reader or anyone who becomes involved in her life that her sadness will sweep over them; and they may suffer as she has suffered. This sign will take you, she writes, “again and again,” referring to the cycle of death and birth, death and reawakening to a new life form. Her life, she insinuates, has been filled with sorrow, no matter how many times it has been transformed. And the sadness of her life will influence the “you” she addresses in the first stanza. The speaker then states that the dark sign of her life will take the person addressed “to eternal dawn / bloomings and eternal growth.” It will do so through an “incantation of itself,” a phrase that could denote a prayer, a chant, or even a spell that might curse the person who becomes involved in her life. “I joined you,” the speaker states, “to tree and water and fire.” Note that the speaker did not say that she had “joined with “you,” but rather she merely “joined you.” The speaker might be returning to the statements in the first lines of the poem and is insinuating that through association with her (because she is a dark sign) this “you” is joined to the traumatic incidents in her life, which have transformed her. She may be referring to the tree as life itself. Water might be a form of nourishment or could also reflect tears. Fire might refer to the so-called hotter emotions of anger or passion. The “you” is joined to these elements because the speaker has “versified” him or her, placed the “you” there through the poetry of her transitions.
Section two is the longest part of the poem. In it, the speaker attempts to define life, her need for love, and the weight of her art and her loneliness.
With the word “perhaps,” the speaker begins several lines in which she tries to define life. Maybe life is the everyday occurrence of a woman passing through a market. Maybe life is the tragedy of a man who hangs himself. She then mentions the ordinary action of a child coming home from school and the emotional release of “lighting up / a cigarette” after lovemaking. But then she changes her mood. She seems to lose her confidence in defining life as the speaker throws in the word “confused.” Two strangers pass one another on the street and exchange a greeting. The words of this greeting, “Good morning,” appear to be friendly, but the words are empty, she writes. The smile of one of the passersby is “mean / -ingless.” The word “meaningless,” at least in translation, is hyphenated, so at first it reads that the smile is “mean.” Only as the reader continues down to the next line is the interpretation changed from “mean” to “meaningless,” which is still a little disturbing but not as intense.
In the above lines, the speaker tries to define life objectively, through observation of others. But in the next set of lines, the speaker turns to perceptions of herself. In doing so, her definition of life becomes even vaguer, more abstract, more elusive. Life becomes a “stopped instant.” It becomes a gaze that “self-destructs.” She compares life to her attempt to look into someone’s eyes. But her gaze is stopped by the “no-no” of that person’s eyes. She wants to know that person, but she cannot penetrate that person’s soul any more than she can understand the moon or see in the “pitch dark.” Life is not to be comprehended in this way.
The speaker next turns to her emotions. Maybe it is through her emotions that she can define life. Her heart, she writes, has been broken many times. Through her loneliness she has witnessed the “subterfuges” of her heart’s “happiness.” She has found and lost that happiness many times, and she compares that journey of love found and lost to the withering of a beautiful flower, to the planting of a young tree, to the “song of canaries,” which might be beautiful, but the song is so small, “only as large as a window.” The love she has experienced is transient. It fades; it is a mere sapling; it is a very small song. She wants a love as big as the sky, but her share of that sky “will be taken” from her as if someone had hung “a curtain over it.” She knows it is there, but it is veiled, covered up, and she cannot see it.
Not only is her share of happiness veiled, it also descends “an abandoned stairwell.” Whereas the sky should be overhead, implying something positive, hers descends a stairwell that no one uses any more. Her share not only descends, it rots in a place of exile. Her only remembrance of her share is in “a grief-stained stroll in memory lane.” It not only is in the past, it exists in sadness. “In the sorrow of a voice,” she hears it calling to her by stating, “I love / your hands.” This is the poet referring to her art. It is with her hands that she creates her poetry, and it is through her poetry that she remembers her share of love, that she remembers her life. When she “plants” her “hands in the garden,” she becomes alive. She grows “green,” a sign of creativity, of life. She then repeats the phrase, “I know,” as if someone were reminding her that it is through her poetry, through her art that she feels life most intensely. “I know I know I know,” she writes, like someone who really did not have to be told; like someone who already knows but maybe does not want to hear it, or does not want it to sink in.
There are two images in the next section, “two twin dark red cherries” and “dahlia leaves / on my fingernails” that refer to the first cosmetics that a young Iranian girl can use. The red cherries are the fruit, freshly taken off a tree and dangled over the ear by its twin stems, as a sort of earring. The dahlia leaves are a substitute for fingernail polish. These images represent the coming-of-age transition when a young girl wants to attract attention from the opposite sex. Then the speaker refers to the young boys who paid attention to her, boys who “dream of / a girl’s innocent smiles,” or in other words, dream of a young girl’s innocence. In that innocence, the speaker proclaims, a girl “was carried away / one night by the wind.” This phrase implies something somewhat negative, as if the girl were taken away against her will. Or maybe taken away without her realizing the full consequences.
Then the speaker distances herself again. She writes of a “blob impregnating the dry line / of time.” A blob is amorphous, formless, and unstructured. This could mean that the person to whom the speaker refers as a blob has fallen apart. Since all of Farrokhzaad’s poetry is personal, this could refer to her mental breakdown or her loss of identity she suffered as a traditional Iranian wife. It might also refer to the Iranian dress code that requires all women to drape themselves in formless clothing and veils. But it could also be an allusion to her loss of her child. The next set of lines seems to imply that it might be a little of all these things.
“The blob of a conscious image which image / is reflected back from a party mirror.” With these lines, the speaker could be talking about the “self” she sees only in reflection. And that reflection is distorted. There is nothing else in this poem that refers to something as happy as a party. From everything else that has been written before this line, the speaker does not convey a spirited personality—someone who would have fun at a party. But that is how the “blob” sees herself—in a “party mirror.” And through this reflection, the speaker states this is the “way / that somebody dies.” And yet somebody also “remains.” In looking at herself through this mirror, the speaker might be saying, a part of her dies. It is not the real her. She cannot fully see herself. She sees only a shadow of herself—the part that remains.
The third section, like the first, is very short. The speaker makes reference to water in the last stanza, another form of reflection. She begins by describing a “piddling little old crick,” a small rivulet that “flows into a ditch.” This is not a nourishing source of water, for nothing grows there. There are no oyster pearls to be found, no jewels. Nothing worthwhile. This might be the speaker still searching for a definition of herself. She does not feel confident that she has any depth or any treasure “for a fisherman to catch,” but she does have dreams. She knows of a mermaid, a mythical creature. That mermaid is sad, though. The mermaid lives in the ocean, a very fertile and exciting place to live. And she is an artist too, who “plays her heart” on a “wooden lip flute.” She is “small,” the speaker states, implying that the speaker’s dream is small too. There is, however, hope. The mermaid represents the commencement of rebirth. There are possibilities here, for “she dies in the night” and “will be born at daybreak / from one kiss.” The speaker returns to the concept of rebirth here. However, the transformation of the mermaid remains dependent on a kiss.
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