Christy asked in Arts & HumanitiesPoetry · 1 decade ago

What is the poem "Pauline Is Falling" By Jean Nordhaus talking about?

From the cliff's edge,

kicking her feet in panic and despair

as the circle of light contracts and blackness

takes the screen. And that

is how we leave her, hanging, -- though we know

she will be rescued, only to descend

into fresh harm, the story flowing on,

disaster and reprieve – systole, diastole – split

rhythm of a heart that hungers

only to go on. So why is this like my mother,

caged in a railed bed, each breath,

a fresh installment in a tortured tale

of capture and release? Nine days

she dangled, stubborn,

over the abyss, the soft clay crumbling

beneath her fingertips, until she dropped

with a little bird cry of surprise

into the swift river below.

Here metaphor collapses, for there was no love

to rescue her, no small boat

waiting with a net to fish her out,

although the water carried her,

and it was April when we buried her

among the weeping cherries and the waving

flags and in the final fade, a heron

breasted the far junipers

to gain the tremulous air and swim away.

1 Answer

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Jean is talking about the death of her mother.

    She is saying that during her mother's final illness, the family prepared themselves for her death several times - only to find that she had survived a little longer. Jean compares this to the familiar 'cliffhanger' device in popular fiction, where the heroine seems in mortal danger but is always rescued at the last minute.

    But because Jean's mother was dying in real life, in the end she just died. There was no last minute rescue.

    Jean is saying that life isn't really like an adventure story: we don't live happily ever after.

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