In a wasted time, it’s only when I sleep
that all my senses come awake. In the wake
of you, let day not break. Let me keep
the scent, the weight, the bright of you, take
the countless hours and count them all night through
till that time comes when you come to the door
of dreams, carrying oranges that cast a glow
up into your face. Greedy for more
than the gift of seeing you, I lean in to taste
the colour, kiss it off your offered mouth.
For this, for this, I fall asleep in haste,
willing to fall for the trick that tells the truth
that even your shade makes darkest absence bright,
that shadows live wherever there is light.
I love a good sonnet. 14 lines of poetry packaged all into one little format, with so many stylistic devices being used by the poet. It is a microcosm of magnificence in all literature, whether in the Shakespearean, Petrarchan, or any other form.
This one is no different from the rest in that it is a poem that classifies love as something that is so beautiful to share and to have in your life, whilst at the same time, being the source of so much conflict. If you have ever really loved someone, you will know what it is like to be parted from them and this, in a way, is what the poet is sharing here, a sense of wanting to feel, to touch, to taste, to smell her lover near her all the days of her life. It is, in essence, a poem that shows the epitome or eros love, or real love, as some would think it, the kind of love where you are pained when you are separate from each other for more than a short time.
Dharker begins with the idea of “a wasted time,” but this is not the kind where we waste time by daydreaming or dawdling all day. This “wasted time” is the time when you are asleep and you cannot normally and physically experience your lover and his love in real, tangible terms. “In a wasted time,” she says, “it’s only when I sleep that all my senses come awake.” When we are awake, we can be guarded, careful, cautious and thoughtful about anyone and anything. We can love but hold back that love, adding conflict into a relationship. We can give that love away and we can get to the point where our affections for someone else can wain and vanish. But, she is saying, in the dream state, when our body is relaxed, that is when the truest nature of our affections and emotions can show themselves, in the dreams we have of another.
Is waking life a waste of time? Is that what she is suggesting? For it is only when she sleeps that her senses “come awake?” It sounds like she is saying that this is the only place she feels really free to express her emotions. It is only “in the wake of you,” or in the waking sense of her lover, that she wishes day would not break, so that she could continue where the sense of love resides for her in its truest form; in her heart and mind. Then come the requests, from either God, or time or fate, or whatever you feel runs this universe of ours, to let her “keep the scent, the weight, the bright” of her lover near her. Have you ever missed someone so much that you can smell them nearby, or in the air, in their clothing, or by just opening a door and smelling their perfume or aftershave? It is that kind of sense she is wishing to hold onto, as if she has maybe lost someone close to her, or is separated by the miles of life that separate us from our loved ones.
She wishes to “take the countless hours and count them all night through,” thinking about her lover “till that time comes when you come to the door of dreams,” so she can see her [or him] again in the newness of the dawn’s light and radiance. In that way, she will see her lover anew each day, but only in her dreams can she remember and see her lover in the perfect way. I can remember when my father passed. At times, we did not get on, but I loved the old codger and when he died in 1999, I was plagued by dreams for months about him. They were the fun times we had running through my mind when my mind had lost its ability to block such things. Those dreams hurt me at the time and it took me some time to realise that he had actually gone from this world, even though I had been there at his funeral. So it is possible to see this poem in this way as well, for it resonates with me as a grieving son as well as someone who loves his wife dearly and could not be without her. If you are thinking of a poem to compare this one with, then you could look at Remember, by Christina Rossetti, where she says for her lover to remember her when she has gone.
She asks for her senses to see her lover come to her “ carrying oranges that cast a glow” into that person’s face. This is an interesting image, for it could be argued that this means that rather like a buttercup, a bunch of something readily available in the country where this is set, like ours or even somewhere else, makes it so that there seems to be a ruddy glow on the face of a person carrying oranges to bring to the home because of a reflection. This is a woman who is “greedy for more than the gift of seeing” her lover. Seeing is one thing, but there are so many other senses with which you would observe and take in the love of your life. She says that in her dreams, she leans in “to taste the colour, kiss it off [that] offered mouth,” as if a kiss has been offered by her lover. It is one of those moments, as a lover, where you find it irresistible to ignore. When your love asks for a kiss, you sidle in and make it a good one, because if you don’t then that can mean all manner of things, can’t it?
“For this, for this, I fall asleep in haste,” she says to the reader, offering and sharing her desires with us all as we wade into her emotions and see the extent of her love. This is a woman of passion, a woman who loves and a woman who adores the person she is thinking of, which leads us to the “trick” of light that happens and makes her think her lover is with her when s/he is not. She is all too “willing to fall for the trick” a shadow plays when she thinks her lover is there, when s/he is not. If you have ever woken up from a dream and wondered that there is someone close to you, then it is this trick of the senses that the poem is talking about and for someone who is parted from their love, by circumstance or death, then this would happen. Such a trick “tells the truth” about something and makes a person’s shade turn the most “darkest absence bright,” because of hope in seeing that person again; seeing them, feeling their presence, sensing their smell and light that they have or had. For this woman, the “shadows live wherever there is light,” which does suggest that in some way, this sense of separation is causing her joy but also pain. This is where her sense of conflict comes in this poem, because she cannot have that physical experience of her lover at the time but only when in dreamland, can she really feel as if she is in the arms of the one she loves.
Love and conflict. They go hand in hand with most love stories or love poems. In life, you see, when we love, we sometimes fight. Just think of a love story made into a film and you can bet that there is some form of conflict in that storyline. That, right there, is conflict within a loving relationship. No one likes to have their feelings hurt, or their wishes ignored. No one likes it when someone they love does something wrong and causes conflict and whichever way we read this poem [and there will be many because no answer is a wrong answer; we all approach poetry from our differing experiences of life] we will always see that there is conflict at the heart of this poem as well as a deep and abiding love. This is why this is such a good poem to write about.
Now, you have a go at writing your own thoughts about this poem. Then do it for each of the ones you have read and studied. It will be good practice for the examinations. And then, write about two of them, comparing and contrasting them, saying how they are similar and how they are different.