Response to “Care” by Craig Santos Perez

After reading the poem “Care” by Craig Santos Perez on poets.org, I was struck by its sharp and concise language and word choice. This poem has roots in non-fiction, mainly because it deals with real life human emotions, and incorporates struggles that could easily be attributed to a real life scenario. The poem also names actual places in the world to establish a contrast between two vastly different settings. Both the island of O’ahu in Hawaii and the country of Syria are mentioned, in contrast with one another, while at the same time connecting them through the introspection of the speaker in the poem. The speaker of the poem poses the all-encompassing “what if” scenario of the safety of his surroundings becoming similar to the current day conditions in Syria. The tension in the poem comes from the presumed commentary of the turmoil in the entire Middle East region, specifically Syria, of which the media and the world has shifted the focal point to over the past year or two, because of the instability in the country.

The effectiveness of the poem comes from the fact that Perez focuses on concrete and not abstract diction. The narrative is clear, and it does not rely on “lofty” ideals that are sometimes presented in hypothetical scenarios. However, this is not to say that the poem does not touch on the issue of human existence and other philosophical ideas. Although the “drought” in the piece is grounded through the reference to Halaby pepper fields, this is used as standing point to comment on “the drought of humanity.” Through the “drought of humanity” line, we are able to recognize the shift in theme of the poem, from the speaker and his daughter, to the human race as a whole. The poem is in a sense an optimistic pleading for compassion among all humans, most especially those who are the most violent, a call to world peace, without sounding cliché. At the same time the main theme of the poem shifts, so too does the tone of it. The violent depictions of soldiers and terrorists are replaced by words like hope and refuge, which changes the dark tone, to light.

There is some interesting word play in the poem, where “Flames, nails, and shrapnel” are proposed to be “barreling” towards the speaker, regardless of the fact that it’s hypothetical. The use of the verb barreling, draws a connection to the noun barrel, which could be an allusion to oil barrels, and the unrest that has been caused over the control of oil in the Middle East. This speaks to the clever nature of the poem, and is something that makes you really. I think the purpose of this poem is to make us think, to engage the reader to consider the less fortunate, and sympathize with people who have to survive in very harsh living conditions. These are things that as an American I have the privilege of not having to worry about, too often in this country we too easily ignore the plight of others around the world.

 

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