Emma Jones is an Australian poet famous for her renowned publication The Striped World (2009). Her exceptional skills at evoking images which are seemingly disparate but connected with an invisible thought are remarkable especially in the poem “Waking” where Jones interestingly puts her own birth and waking up in her bed after a night’s sleep- both at the same plain. She parallels the two scenarios- the past and the present in its symbolism of awakening as entering into the world when she’s born and entering each new day with a more rooting consciousness.
Waking | Summary and Analysis
The speaker of the poem can be assumed to be the poet persona herself or any other woman due to the personal touch in the conception as well as the first person pronoun ‘I.’ It is a short composition written in free verse where the speaker describes her ritualistic mornings and then ventures ahead to compare her waking up on a morning to waking up into this world i.e. her birth.
Here it is again, light hoisting its terrible bells.
As though a world might wake up with it –
The moon shuts its eye. Down in the street
the same trolley is playing the pavestones.
The speaker begins the poem with a tone of irritability which is an outcome of the sunrise compared to ringing bells (metaphor) to wake up the world. The hyphen in the second line separates two reactions to the sunrise- the moon is anthropomorphised “as it shuts its eye” to mark the end of the night and people awake with the arrival of a new morning. Further, as a part of their daily routine, people venture on to their jobs like a man/woman carrying a trolley which always moves on a pavestone visible from the speaker’s building. There is a musical imagery ascribed to it.
For twenty-five years I’ve been waking
this way. There was one morning
when my mother woke and felt a twitch
inside, like the shifting of curtains.
The previous set of lines describe the past twenty-five years of the speaker and the regularity of her morning awakenings. But in these lines, she recalls another kind of waking up i.e. her birth into this world. The morning of her birth begins with her mother’s sudden labour pain, the development of which she describes as a “twitch/ inside, like the shifting of curtains” (simile). The domesticity surrounding a woman is noteworthy in the poem’s language.
She woke and so did I. I was like a bird
beating. She had no time for anaesthetic.
We just rolled from each other like indecent genies.
Even the nurses were startled.
The speaker’s mother awakes due to uneasiness and with her, the speaker to wakes up too i.e. springs out of her following a delivery procedure. She is like a bird beating, restless and unsure of this new world (simile). The mother delivers the child without anaesthesia owing to the immediacy and urgency. It is a quick process which even surprises the medical professionals accompanying them. The speaker as a new born also states herself as an ‘indecent genie’ (simile) who has come out of the womb after a long period of stay like a genie’s in a magic lamp to make her mother’s life happy and joyful.
Now she says the world and I were eager
from the start. But I was only waking
The speaker concludes the poem with her mother’s words who in the present conveys to her that the speaker like the world was too eager to arrive. If the popular theories about the world are to be believed, then the world we inhabit today was formed just out of a big bang. The unexpectedness and the immediacy of the world coming into existence is similar to the speaker’s who too was born ahead of her due time which according to the speaker was an awakening from a long sleep inside her mother’s womb. Thus the metaphysical is juxtaposed with the corporeal.