Testimonial by Rita Dove
Back when the earth was new
and heaven just a whisper,
back when the names of things
hadn't had time to stick;
back when the smallest breezes
melted summer into autumn,
when all the poplars quivered
sweetly in rank and file . . .
the world called, and I answered.
Each glance ignited to a gaze.
I caught my breath and called that life,
swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet.
I was pirouette and flourish,
I was filigree and flame.
How could I count my blessings
when I didn't know their names?
Back when everything was still to come,
luck leaked out everywhere.
I gave my promise to the world,
and the world followed me here.
I find this poem to carry a strong sense of nostalgia, one which is tangible as the reader describes the beloved memories of a time "when the earth was new". I've interpreted this time, which is so vividly described by Dove as one in which she exists no longer, to be childhood, and perhaps even innocence itself. She writes, "I caught my breath and called that life, swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet".The narrator speaks as if his/her youth was the epitome of life, a perfect happiness in which one lives ignorant of hardship and struggle. She writes about youth's fragility and playfulness, "I was pirouette and flourish, I was filigree and flame", and how she had taken the delicately flawless moments for granted - "How could I count my blessings when I didn't know their names?". I love this poem because I feel she captures the familiar and habitual longing for one's childhood with the same elegance and delicacy that the poem itself is illustrating.
Alliteration - "swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet"(12), "filigree and flame" (14), "luck leaked"(18)
Assonance - I noticed that she uses assonance in many of the stanzas in the second and last lines: "whisper" and "stick"; "gaze" and "sorbet"; "flame"and "names"
Dactyl - "pirouette" and "filigree" (13, 14)- they indicate the playfulness which Dove is trying to portray
"back when the smallest breezes
melted summer into autumn," (5-6)