The poems that I have chosen to perform are “Mid-Term Break,” by Seamus Heaney, “Silent Child,” by Kelly Lancor, and “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” by Mary Elizabeth Frye. The first poem, “Mid-Term Break,” was found in my textbook. Thought the poem does not explicitly tell us, I imagine that the speaker is an eighteen or nineteen year old man. I think it tells the story of the death of his younger brother, though it never expressly says this either. The speaker is simply talking to the audience, rather than one single person. I chose this poem to include in my performance because I feel like it’s a glimpse into that first stage of grieving, whether the deceased has died prematurely or otherwise.
The second poem, “Silent Child,” displays a brief moment as a mother says goodbye to her child. The speaker, then, is a mother, and she is speaking solely to her child. I chose this poem because I felt it showed a later step in the grieving process. The mother in this poem is slowly coming to terms with the fact that there was some greater reason that her child was taken from this world.
The final poem that I have chosen, “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” is perhaps my favorite. This poem spends no time talking about the sadness that surrounds dying, but rather focuses on all of the ways that the deceased remains present. This poem is unique in that the speaker is not an outside observer of death. The speaker is very clearly the deceased, speaking to anyone who has come to grieve her death. I chose to include this poem in my performance because I felt like it was a good way to round off the story. I had already talked about the initial impact of a death and coming to terms with the death, so I thought the only appropriate way to finish was to talk about how we would like to think of them as time progresses. I feel like this poem shows how the memory of a person is ever-present, even after they have gone.
I think all three of these poems can be considered dramatic lyric poetry. Though they could be read using simply the words, the understanding does not come until the proper amount of emotion is put behind the words. Thought the first two poems do not really include much for figurative language, the third poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” is full of metaphors. I do not think the author is saying that the speaker is actually the wind or the glitter of the snow, but rather that when you hear the wind or see the snow you will think of the deceased with fond memories, as if they were still alive.
I chose the overall theme for my performance, early or premature death, because it has played such a vital role in my life, beginning, believer it or not, prenatally. Few people know that I had a twin at one time, though it died in the womb prior to my birth. Obviously I didn’t have a strong emotional connection with the other baby at that time, but I often wonder what life would have been like if things had turned out differently. Perhaps my primary reason for choosing this theme, though, is an event that occurred when I was twelve years old. It was then that my brother’s friend, Melany, only fifteen years old, committed suicide. It was with this experience that I went through every step of the grieving process that is displayed in the poems I have chosen.
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o’clock our neighbors drove me home.
In the porch I met my father crying–
He had always taken funerals in his stride–
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.
The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand
And tell me they were “sorry for my trouble,”
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.
Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,
Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
A four foot box, a foot for every year.
My silent child
our precious baby,
Close to my heart
I’ll keep you with me.
An important job
God has for you,
There is love to give,
and work to do.
He needs an angel
strong but small,
To shine light on many
and give love to all.
Before you go
I give you this,
half my heart
and one last kiss.
We’ll miss you dearly
that we know,
But by God you were
So to heaven, you must go
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elzabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.