Image Is Everything: Mary Oliver's Singapore College Essay

996 words - 4 pages

Heller 2
Image is Everything
The speaker of Mary Oliver’s poem “Singapore” makes even the most disturbing scene seem poetic just by adding little things like birds, trees or rivers. In this poem, the speaker talks about a woman she sees in a Singapore airport restroom cleaning a toilet and an ashtray, and she compares this image to a vision of nature. In this poem, the speaker uses a collaboration of imagination, nature imagery, and what she physically sees to compare the woman and the work she does to nature and happiness. Her style of writing is setup to go back and forth between what is really happening and what is being made up in her imagination
In this poem, the speaker shows how the woman she sees cleaning the ashtray and the toilet can be related to happiness. At first glance, the speaker is disturbed by the encounter with a cleaning lady in a Singapore airport bathroom. “Disgust argued in my stomach / and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket” (Oliver 6-7). She is not happy about what she is seeing. In fact, she does what most people do, she judges the woman based off of first appearances. In reference to when she was feeling for her ticket, the word “felt” has a comma after it, creating a slight pause. This could be interpreted as the speaker about to say how she felt towards the woman, but could not put it into words. The reaching for her ticket, can also be seen as a nervous twitch almost. The speaker feels uneasy about what is in front of her, and in order to feel detached from the scene, she reachers for her ticket to know that there is a way out for her. A way to go back to a happier place. Instead of leaving immediately she stays and her mind creates a beautiful poem about out of the woman. A poem often projects or creates a happy place and she wants to put the woman there, “A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem” (Oliver 13). The speaker places herself in a happy place by writing the poem, and by doing this, she imagines the woman is also in a happy place.
In the structure of Oliver’s poem, the speaker jumps in and out of reality and the creations of her mind. She moves back and forth between what the speaker is actually seeing and what her imaginations creates in order to mask the situation. For instance, she begins talking about what she sees, “In the woman’s restroom, one compartment stood open. / A woman knelt there, washing something / in the white bowl” (Oliver 3-5). She then compares this scene to nature, “A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain / raising and falling” (Oliver 11-12). In her mind, the speaker sees a woman standing in front of a beautiful waterfall or fountain, when in reality is it a dirty flush...


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