In Louise Glück’s poem, Siren, the speaker is in the role of a mistress. The tone of the poem could be interpreted as resentful. The woman in the poem has dropped her life to be with a married man, who is refusing to leave his wife for her.
I didn’t want to go to Chicago with you.
I wanted to marry you, I wanted
Your wife to suffer.
That stanza shows how she has given up so much for her to be with this man. In my own interpretation, I said that it sounded like the man has made a previous promise to her that he would divorce his wife to be with her.
One major stigma about this poem is that most films and other writings depict the “other woman” as a young, devilish, sex-driven woman, but the speaker in this poem is hopelessly in love with this man. The title of this poem is a give-away to the negative stigma that is talked about in this poem. When she says,
I was a good waitress.
I could carry eight drinks.
It shows that she had a life before she met this man, and she dropped everything to be with him, but he isn’t going to leave his wife anytime soon to be with her. At the end of the poem, she reminisces on everything she has missed out on because she has been waiting on this man.
In the dream, she’s weeping, the bus she’s on
Is moving away. With one hand
She’s waving; the other strokes
An egg carton full of babies.
From my own interpretation, I believe that the woman on the bus is the speaker. While it is an odd visual, she is hurt because she put her entire life on pause for a man who is still in love with his wife. She could have found another man to love her and to take care of her, with whom she could have had kids with, but she is disappointed with herself because she was blinded by love.
In Denise Levertov’s poem, Life at War, she shines a light on the reality of the Vietnam War. During this time, the public had very little actual knowledge of what was actually happening in Vietnam. Levertov has one stanza which is very alarming,
Still turns without surprise, with mere regret
To the scheduled breaking open of breasts whose milk
Runs out over the entrails of still – alive babies,
Transformation of witnessing eyes to pulp – fragments,
Implosion of skinned penises into carcass – gulleys.
This stanza describes the reign of terror that Vietnamese civilians are under. A lot of Americans during this time thought that only Vietnamese soldiers were the ones being hurt, but in reality, there were more civilian deaths than military deaths. The next stanza brings a sense of empathy towards the human race.
We are the humans, men who can make;
Whose language imagines mercy,
Lovingkindness we have believed one another
Mirrored forms of a God we felt as good-
In that stanza, she tells the reader that people are people, no matter where they come from or what they look like. All of these people have lives, and families, and people who care about them and it is wrong to slaughter and torture them just because they happen to be there. In the poem, Levertov does not explicitly state whether she is talking about American citizens or Vietnamese citizens, and I believe she made a conscious decision about this. I believe that she did this to show that killing, no matter race, sexual orientation, and/or religion, should ever be murdered.
Who do these acts, who convince ourselves
It is necessary; these acts are done
To our own flesh; burned human flesh
Is smelling in Vietnam as I write.
This stanza brings the idea to the table of American exceptionalism. When she says “it is necessary” she is saying that part of being an American, is believing that we always have to assert our dominance and power over other countries who either don’t agree with us, or they challenge us.