Here is a melancholy little poem from Dionisio Martinez, the modern Cuban-American poet. It is about loneliness, under-achievement, taking what life deals out rather than shaping your own destiny. The second half of the title, the part after the colon, connects with the poem. For the first half of the title, “Flood”, Martinez asks the reader to do the work and create his or her own meaning. That’s fair enough, it tells us that, even for such a short poem as this, we need to engage, think and interpret.
Flood: Years of Solitude
BY DIONISIO D. MARTÍNEZ
To the one who sets a second place at the table anyway.
To the one at the back of the empty bus.
To the ones who name each piece of stained glass projected on a white wall.
To anyone convinced that a monologue is a conversation with the past.
To the one who loses with the deck he marked.
To those who are destined to inherit the meek.
The poem is only 7 lines, and each line is in the form of a dedication, as if the poet is raising his glass to propose a toast perhaps, or writing a dedicatory preface to a more substantial work. Each line draws attention to a sad, grey existence, the years of solitude of the title, experienced by those who life passes by in some respect. It reminds me of the famous line from Thoreau, that most men live lives of quiet desperation (at least until their ambition is burned out and they just accept their fate). And the 6th line echoes the Sermon on the Mount, the line about the meek inheriting the earth, although here it seems as if the meek might be eternal losers.
The poem has a kick in the tail – the last line, “To us” puts the poet and all his readers in this category, like characters in a Samuel Beckett play. Well, perhaps – but even on bad days, I am more of a glass half-full kind of person.
The Poetry Dude