“Rites to Allay the Dead” by Amit Majmudar
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In the poem “Rites to Allay the Dead,” by Amit Majmudar, it shows us conventional and unconventional images that are combined together providing examples to explain how this poem is for the living rather than the dead. The dominant images throughout the poem create an intense awareness with a key point to not let death remain near for it is hungry and will haunt us. There are many symbols in the poem to help us understand what the author is trying to convey, for example, the house in the first section and the death imagery in the second section. At first the reader is led to break down the daily mourning which the living are faced with when losing somebody. The line between the living and the dead is an important aspect that we need to accept for death will remain near if we do not. When losing somebody that is fairly close to us it is difficult to deal with life as easily as it once was before they were deceased. Many people have a hard time eliminating their presence and fully accepting what has taken place. In the beginning of this poem the author provides examples of the troublesome ways human beings cope with the loss of somebody.
The inside of the home is used as a setting in the first stanza to frame the imagery of death that is both conventional and unconventional. “The sandals that remember where they stepped/ Out of the world must be picked up off the floor” (3-4). It is hard to remove things that belong to somebody we love knowing they will never return. The sandals represent an unconventional image symbolizing all of the places their feet have been around the world. It brings a remembrance to our minds leaving us with pessimistic thoughts of not even wanting to leave the house. In correlation, humans deal with the loss of a loved one in many different ways, some move on keeping their minds busy and some are very negative losing themselves in the world. “Closed blinds attract them, stopped clocks, cooling food”(8). These conventional images symbolize the constant mourning that is causing the spirit to stick around the outside of the house. The time in the outside world keeps going but in our perspective it is stopping, eaving us to abandon anything that is happening in our life.
All of these terms the author has chosen shows the reader, “It is never enough to close the door”(1). Consequently, it is not easy to close the door and accept the reality of the truth. Instead, we mourn letting the spirits stick around and that might just lure us into their world. With that being said, in the second stanza there is a break in the poem that corresponds with the imagery of death. “They’ll lick the doorstep like the cat come round,/ Remembering you like they remember hunger”(9-10). When mourning it can turn a person’s view of life into a very depressing state that we may not be able to emotionally remove ourselves from. The poet leaves the reader with a spooked feeling as he uses the symbolism of a cat. In the same way a stray cat will come around an abandoned building, spirits of the unknown will remain near because we are keeping their flame lit, and the grief will grow immensely leaving them to smell it as they used to smell food when once hungry. If we do not withdraw ourselves from the situation and try to face the acceptance of this we are attracting them and letting them inside.
“And point to your heart as in a lost and found”(12). From an unknown realm, they are listening and watching everything we do, knowing that we are the weak granting them their wishes in taking our presence. There is an aggressive haunting behind the lines the poet is focusing on in this poem. When we think of a spirit pointing to our hearts it leaves the reader to believe the dead are coming and know which bodies they want to take. To emphasize on the deceased, there is a line in this poem that shows us the symbolization that death is near. “The dead will know if you love much longer,/ And whistle near through the shuddering leaves”(13-14.) The image of when we read the term “whistle” connects to a person whistling to their dog. For example, when the owner whistles the dog obeys and comes to them.
But in this poem, it is as if the dead is whistling trying to make us follow them. When the poet mentions shuddering of leaves we may think of how the wind picks up in the afternoon at a cemetery causing the leaves to shudder. These signs of imagery are in correspondence with death and reminds us that it is not far, for it is coming closer and closer as the days go on. In essence, the poet wanted us to focus on this poem for the living rather than the dead. The main keys elements that are being highlighted in this poem are symbolism and imagery. The author creates unconventional symbolization of life through where the sandals have touched. He sets up and image in our mind of an eerie cat and a whistle leaving the reader startled. There is a dominant frame in which we see people mourning over the dead and what may happen as time goes on life.
Majmudar, Amit. “Rites to Allay the Dead”. online