During A Son's Dangerous Illness

Terence Duncan 11/01/99

An Essay on "During A Son?s Dangerous Illness"

Death can strike at anytime, sometimes expected, but too often unannounced. Denise Levertov wrote a poem entitled "During a Son?s Dangerous Illness" about the unmerciful side of death. This poem emphasied on emotions, visualization, and a consice structure that symbolizes how perplexing and awful death can be. It is a poem of desolate mood and brought a horrifiying feeling to me. In my opinion, works of literature like this that bring a sense of awarness to the world to cherish every moment, for it could be your last.
The beginning of the poem starts with a very powerful line: "You could die before me". The fact of the matter is, however, no matter what the circumstances, young, old, rich, poor, white, or black; you can be here today and gone tommorrow.
It is very evident at the beginning of the poem that the author is coming from personal expierence. The author speaks of how her younger sister passed away and how heartbroken their mother was. Now it seems she is faced with her first born possibly dying in an untimely manner.
Instead of devoting the poem to just simply her pain, anguish, and suffering, she broadens the topic of death and applies it to society and the environment in a way that cause me to reflect. She asks questions regarding what will happen if all life dyies, all creatures, signifing how death effects everyone and has is nondiscriminant in its quest. Questions arise about the past and future and, when something dies, what possibly becomes of that potential future or, in fact, there ever was one. Is it all some master plan, is it all for nothing, do loved ones have a say? I believe part of the answer is no, we have no say in who gets taken from us, at least for the most part. The future that could?ve been, was only a future we, the loving hopefuls, had anticipated. The amount of drain of energy is amazing when someone is deathly ill. When one is not in control of fate and can?t easily accept this lack of control, it can produce a feeling of confusion that takes over every aspect of one?s life. That is what this poem is saying.
Something else that really interested me was how the author compared how an outsider might feel about a tragic death as compared to the person directly affected by the death of a loved one. The metaphor is "The grief I?d know if I lived into your unthinkable death, is a splinter of that selfsame grief". The author makes it clear that when we drive past a horrible accident the grief is infinitely smaller than that felt by the immediate loved ones. One can never know how another feels when a loving member of his/her family passes in an unforseen way, even if it has happened to him/her.
Grief and sadness are very personal and subjective feelings. The poem touches on relating to the agony of death and getting the reader to feel empathy, that is a very difficult thing to do. The reader cannot imagine how the author feels, nor can he/she honestly say they have felt anything like that, although, the poem gives the reader a very good idea of what it may be like.
The subject matter discussed in the poem, is not the most pleasant. It is very depressing and it is not a joyous poem to write a paper on. Although, the author wrote it as some form of trying to understand and escape the pain she is experiencing. This poem has given her peace in some way, but it causes many emotions and thoughts to run through the reader?s head that are difficult to address. It is a good poem, but works such as this are viewed as unhealthy. Although, works of literature like this are important to give people an understanding of tragedy. When reading this poem the reader is feeling many emotions that can be bring up memories of the tragedies in their lives. It is almost disturbing to hear of events like this.