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VIRGIN OFFERING (a review by Samuel Okopi)

Broken heart symbol

There is probably no theme under heaven that has received much attention as love. To test its popularity ‘scientifically’, I googled the word. It was a shocking 5.95 billion results that beamed under the search box. If the word love could bring up this number, I wondered, what will the word sex bring up? I quickly typed ‘sex’ to see the margin sex trumps love with in popular internet discourse, as we are probably in the most sex-obsessed period of human existence.

Google turned up 2.55 billion results. Phew. Love wins.

Music, movies and poetry have been staple mediums for the expression of love in all forms and perspectives, for ages. Poetry especially has a well carved out reputation as a formidable vehicle of love. Prominently featured in these mediums of expression is the sub-topic of unrequited love. When we desire to share this all-time popular feeling in a personal way with someone, and we are turned down or ignored, it hurts us and reduces our productivity and enjoyment of life—at least for a time.

In Bubbllinna’s poem Virgin, we are served a striking treatment of this theme. We are taking on a musical journey through the pain of a man who is very much in love with the woman of his dreams and is doggedly fighting for her heart: not with daggers and clubs, but perhaps with the persuasive power of word and reason.

Virgin; it was given on a platter
pulsing with hope, nothing else did matter
save the reply one sought to hear.
Maybe held promise – yes was best,
and no never flirted with the thoughts,
but it came wrapped in a blatancy that hurt
and stripped the heart of its true colour.

The poem begins with a word (as all poems do) but this word, and the punctuation that follows, has been chosen carefully by the poet to gently confuse, then surprise and ultimately offer enjoyment to the reader, on the realization of its beautiful intent, after reading the poem again. The poem is not about a virgin, in the “I have not tasted the forbidden fruit before” sense of the word. But we will get to what it means.

The first stanza doesn’t just start with a significant word. The imagery the first three lines evoke is wonderful, and sets the stage for the drama to unfold. The guy has finally approached the girl of his dreams, with some trepidation, and with his ‘virgin’ heart, which has never loved a girl before, ‘pulsing with hope’ on the platter of words he uses to ask her out. The fear of a negative answer is not strong because this guy has probably ‘read’ the ‘signs’ very well, and so is quite confident that a Yes is very much what will be the result of this official tendering of intentions. But the succeeding lines in this stanza paint a woeful picture. The No that never really crossed his mind, has become the reply he gets: his heart is out in the cold, and without a union with and nourishment from that which it beats for, it begins to be “stripped of its true colour.”

Picked from whence twas flung,
it’s offered again though refusal stung.
This time, its coat wears a new colour;
the blue of the sea and bright skies
but the eyes were closed to the sight.
Masked with calculated ignorance,
always the refrain of the dreaded no
Never a maybe, never a yes.”

Sometimes, a negative answer hurts bad. Still, even in the throes of the hurt, and with the “I will forget this girl,” “she is not even that cool,” and “there are better girls out there who will love me for me,” consolation dirges playing in the heart, some will find that they can’t resist the urge to try again. So here, the guy picks his heart from ‘whence twas flung’ (how has the guy been surviving!) and offers it again, this time dyeing the pale heart in blue so it can evoke the cool answer of Yes and not the other hotful answer. Same response: No. Not maybe. Not “I will think about it”. Just No.

Months slip into years and near-eternity
for a life spent harvesting hopes in vain
reality slides in with the final slashes,
that puncture the balloon of dreams
and life becomes a canvas of grey splashes.

This is probably the most crucial stanza. Repeated askings. Repeated Nos. They both become active catalysts that push the guy’s very existence to the acidic end of the pH scale of reality. Hope becomes despair, and his life that used to be bright and colourful and fun becomes ‘a canvas of grey splashes’.

I should spare some words for an aspect of the stylistic treatment of this poem. Bubbllinna treats us to a delicious mix of true and oblique rhymes. We have the true rhymes of platter/matter juxtaposed with the oblique rhymes of thoughts/hurt and hear/best. The streak continues in the second stanza too: true rhymes of flung/stung sharing space with the oblique rhymes, skies/sight (taking the end consonants into consideration). In the last stanza, we are fed a different kind of rhymes: that of movement; a syllabic kind that stresses related parts of words . So we have, to DO/for-GO-tten/to ME, like a sine curve, in:

“Time zooms past as it’s wont to do
and blunts the pain still not forgotten.
The one named Kismet brings her to me

And we have thorns/bleeds, in:

yearning for my heart of thorns.
Tightly she clutches and bleeds.

And un-TIED/be-COME in:

Drops of blood for each knot untied
to reveal the battered mass I did become.

The kind of rhymes this poem employs frees it from the suffocation that a forced attempt at rhyming induces. I also like the fact that the poet did not thread a sesquipedalian path to express herself and pass her message across, something some poets are wont to do, and a certain ex-lawmaker in Nigeria is famous for.

The remaining part of the poem takes us on another journey. Some people are not fortunate to have the love of their lives someday turn around to love them. While some are lucky to have this happen, some others find another person that complements them to the full reach of their dreams. It is these two scenarios that the latter half of the poem explores, depending on how you want to look at it. Time has raced on, soothing his pain but not obliterating it. Fate sends love to him, but this time, love meets a changed person who has been broken and disillusioned. Some of us know what it means to have anger and hurt transferred to innocent us.

yearning for my heart of thorns.
Tightly she clutches and bleeds.
Drops of blood for each knot untied
to reveal the battered mass I did become.

These four lines, ensconced in the last stanza, paint a touching and powerful scenario of someone loving us even when we have been broken and disillusioned by the dashed hopes of a much desired requital of love. In this poem, this new someone, who yearns for the broken heart of this guy, finds that she has to contend with the transfer of his anger, hurt and pain, on her, as she mends him not just for him but for her also; so, to be happy, she first “threads and patches” his battered heart and then “paints in the colours” the guy “used to know.”

It is a slow process most times, as the closing line of the poem reminds us:

I hurt, she loves and I remember.

He still hurts, but with all this love around him, he begins to remember what it was like when the bright blue of the skies played with the deep blue of the ocean on his life’s canvas. He remembers the promise of the pleasurable colours of love that motivated him to begin the quest in the first place. He juxtaposes the variegated vibrancy of the love being offered with the monochromatic blandness of the loneliness he still clutches too. And we the readers, after entering his life—their lives—we can only hope that they both reach a place and time when what they both feel becomes a balanced chemical reaction of romantic attraction and requited love.

 

Visit the POET’S PROFILE HERE. Also read the POEM HERE

Author: admin

I am a member of the WRR editorial team.

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