Death and Rebirth: Examining Death Through Poetry Death is one of the only true constants in the universe and is the only guarantee in life. Everyone knows of death and everyone will experience it, but to the living death is still one of life's greatest mysteries. In some cultures death is celebrated and embraced, while in others it is feared. However it is perceived, death holds different meanings for different people. Through the art of poetry a writer can give a reader many different outlooks and maybe a better understanding of life and death. Death is certain.
We cannot escape it, but just because it is inevitable should we just give in to its dark embrace or should we fight against it? In the poem The Black Snake, the speaker uses vivid images to explain what happened and to express his or her feelings about the situation. In the beginning of the poem a black snake darts onto a busy road and is then hit by a truck. Later a motorist finds the dead snake and buries it in the woods. After burying the snake the motorist continues on his or her drive and reflects on what has transpired. In the first couple of lines "When the black snake flashed onto the morning road, and the truck could not swerve-death, that is how it happens." (687), and from lines 13 to 15 "I leave him under the leaves and drive on, thinking about death: its suddenness, its terrible weight, its certain coming." (687), the snake in this poem is symbolic of us, we are like the snake moving through life until something over takes us, we feel the "terrible weight", of that knowledge.
Through the snakes death the reader gets the idea of how fast and unexpected death can be, sometimes there is no way to prepare for it. Unlike the dark out look of the beginning of the poem, after a little refection the speaker gains a different outlook on death. In lines 15 to 20 "Yet under reason burn a brighter fire, which the bones have always preferred. It is the story of endless good fortune. It says to oblivion: not me!" (687) The speaker has the knowledge of imposing death but through reasoning chooses to keep on fighting. His "bones" which could be a symbol for his unconscious body, which still functions without the knowledge of life and death, or his "bones" could represent his ancestors which went through the same struggles the speaker has.
This is reinforced by the closing lines "It is the light at the center of every cell. It is what sent the snake coiling and flowing forward happily all spring through the green leaves before he came to the road." (688), the "light in every cell", could be a symbol for life or DNA, it is present in every cell, not only is it a building blueprint for the cell, but it is also a set of instructions for the daily functions and activities of the cell. In a sense it drives it to do work. For some reason the cell wants to live.
DNA also spirals and coils much like the snake in the poem. The ironic part of this poem is that same drive that pushes life forward is the same thing that sent the snake happily to its death. Life and death are both part of a perpetual cycle you cannot have one without the other. In the poem Frog Autumn we are given a frogs point of view of the changing cycles of the seasons.
Pattern sets the tone for this poem; the sentences are sparse yet charged with meaning. The frog in this poem is another symbol for us. In the first lines "Summer grows old, cold-blooded mother. The insects are scant, skinny. In these pa lustral homes we only Croak and wither." (659), the frog describes the end of summer and the beginning of winter. Insects are now few and far between, which causes some of the other frogs to die.
The last lines tie up the poem "Frost drops even the spider. Clearly the genius of plenitude houses himself elsewhere. Our folk thin Lamentably." (659) Even the spider could not escape death and he is the master of Bountifulness, winter forces him to move elsewhere. The last line "Our folk thin Lamentably." , sets the tone for the season showing how bad and deplorable the conditions have become. If this poem was to continue eventually winter would turn to spring and the tone would change from death to life.
Looking back at these two poems we are reminded that death is a necessary part of the cycle of life. It is perpetual and has been going on for almost five billon years. Although seems as though no one escapes it, in actuality many of us do. Some survive the ages through myths, legends, writings and stories, while others escape death through their offspring that can carry on their "light in every cell", forever. Whatever way one decides to comprehend death, the most important thing to ask one self is which is more important the experience of death or the affirmation of life.