Dharker stresses that although a community of people is suffering and find the basic staples of life as a blessing, they enjoy it when they finally receive this blessing, even when they could use many more to make life more manageable.
‘Blessing’ by Imtiaz Dharker is a moving poem about the importance of water to a community.
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker emphasizes how hard it is to find water in some parts of India. She also reminds the reader of the importance of water for any person, especially when the climate is so hot and dry. She uses imagery to depict water slowly and carefully, asking the reader to consider how it relates to a “kindly god.” It is a matter of life or death. The longest stanza of the poem describes the rush of water from a burst municipal pope and how everyone congregated on the street to take advantage of it.
The full poem can be read here.
Structure and Form
‘Blessing’ by Imtiaz Dharker is a four-stanza poem that is separated into uneven sets of lines. The first stanza has two lines, the second: four, the third: eleven, and the fourth: six. The poet chose to compose this piece in free verse. This means that there is no set rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, close readers can find examples of both. For instance, “pod” and “god” in the first and second stanza as well as the half-rhyme between “rush” and “huts” in stanza three.
Dharker makes use of several literary devices in ‘Blessing.’ These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: seen when the poet uses the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “polished” and “perfection” in line three of stanza four and “blessings” and “bones” at the end of that stanza.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of stanza three and lines one and two of stanza four.
- Imagery: seen through the use of particularly evocative phrases like: “silver crashes to the ground / and the flow has found / a roar of tongues.” It taps into the reader’s senses.
- Oxymoron: can be seen in the phrase “liquid sun” in the final stanza. It suggests the sun is fluid like water.
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
The skin cracks like a pod.There never is enough water.
The first stanza of Dharker’s poem is actually a couplet. This is an important point to notice for the reason that it conveys the fundamental and concentrated message of deficiency to the reader. Dharker is initiating the poem by grabbing the reader’s attention to communicate an essential message: people are desperately suffering for the reason that “there is never enough water.” She starts this poem titled ‘Blessing’ by demonstrating the absence of it. This is a powerful strategy as it reveals the importance of the blessing before the reader is even aware of what it could be.
The first line of this couplet mentions “the skin cracking,” the skin is one of the most important organs of the body, and to have it crack implies pain, discomfort, abnormality, and lack of care. Right away, the reader understands that the subject of the poem is an imperative one to cause quite the damage and deficiency if absent.
The second line exposes that the reason for the cracked skin is the fact that there isn’t enough water; which reveals that there is not just a shortage of the blessing, but rather, there is a permanent lack of water which in turn has caused severe damage to the skin since there is never enough. The skin here could represent many things, but the most obvious is the human body or population. Describing skin cracking like a “pod” suggests that the humans suffering are breaking because of the deficiency of this main source of life: water, which, is interestingly enough, is now being looked at as a blessing.
Imagine the drip of it,
the voice of a kindly god.
The second stanza begins with the word imagine; by instructing the reader to imagine, Dharker is trying to guide the thought process of the reader as she discusses the importance of the “blessing.” In view of the fact that she has already mentioned the severe lack of water, the first line of this stanza is quite telling. Just by the presence of the word “imagine,” the reader expects to come into contact with something big. However, Dharker proceeds by saying “the drip of it.” By doing this, she has created a very dramatic effect on just one line.
The emphasis of the “drip” of water reminds the reader that the ruthless absence of the blessing of water is so intense that you would have to imagine even just a drip of it. Even a “drip” calls for the use of imagination. That is how extreme the situation is. Line four of the poem continues to emphasize the use of the reader’s imagination to access a “small splash” of this water. By moving from the drip to a splash, Dharker emphasizes the dramatic effect of a simple drop of water in slow motion. By focusing on just a tiny drop instead of a large body of water, Dharker is bringing attention to the severe dehydration that people are facing; Moreover, underlining the notion that when there is a shortage of something, even the most common of things, the value of it undeniably increases.
In line five, Dharker gives emphasis to the fact that the splash of water is in a tin mug; this is significant because an empty tin mug would cause a louder echo, drawing attention to the reality of how empty it is. Line six continues to accentuate the scarcity of water by claiming that the ordinary drip of water in a tin mug is equivalent to “the voice of a kindly god”; water is as much a blessing to the people who are desperately in need of it as the blessing of hope a kind god gives to those who have lost everything.
Sometimes, the sudden rush
of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
This third stanza is the longest in the poem, mainly because it discusses the abundance of the blessing instead of its lack. It is significant that the stanza discusses abundance yet starts off with the word “sometimes” because it communicates to the reader that the case of the blessing being showered upon the people is merely on occasion.
Line seven carries on to depict “a sudden rush”; after the imagery of a single drop echoing in a tin can, the vision of a sudden rush is refreshing. Line eight describes a public pipe bursting; this is important since it involves the community, which the reader assumed was suffering because of their skin cracking. Illustrating a gush of water that bursts the community pipes, the reader realizes this is where the blessing finally steps into the picture.
By having the first two stanzas focus on the lack of the blessing (water) and portraying the consequences of its deficiency, the reader thoroughly understands why the water is such a blessing and appreciates its arrival in this stanza. Line nine describes how intense the water or blessing is when it finally arrives, demonstrating the notion that when it rains, it pours, literally in this case.
Lines ten and eleven continue to describe the ferocity of the water as it “roars,” calling attention to the fact that it has finally arrived. The following few lines paint a picture of a flock of people made up of all ages running out of their “huts” with “pots” and “plastic buckets” to collect the blessing that they had been praying for. Dharker heavily implies that they had been praying for this blessing by calling the gathering of people a “congregation.” The final line of this stanza contains two words: “frantic hands”; here, Dharker provides such elaborate and specific detail to connect the reader to the characters as they become nearly hysterical due to the miracle of witnessing such a blessing after so much anguish.
and naked children
over their small bones.
The poem’s finishing stanza concludes with the depiction of joy whilst maintaining the undertones of suffering to remind the reader that the blessing truly was a blessing for these people. The stanza begins with the image of “naked children” to underline the poverty and hardship the lack of water had caused; It also implies that the community lacks other blessings (wealth). Line nineteen begins with the word “screaming,” again suggesting misery and affliction but implying happiness as the line continues towards the positive light of “the liquid sun.”
“Liquid sun” here could mean two things. First, it could be that this is a metaphor for the water they are rejoicing in, for the reason that the sun is a crucial necessity of life that signifies a new beginning and which is exactly what this eruption of water was for them, a necessity that signified the new beginning of life with the blessing of water. Secondly, it could mean that they were dancing and screaming in the water that was reflecting the sun, turning it into a “liquid sun.”
Line twenty paints an interesting picture “their highlights polished to perfection,” entailing that the main parts of their bodies (“their highlights”) were being bathed, washed, and cleansed perfectly in this rush of water which was washing away their distress. The word blessing, which holds high importance as it is the title of the poem, is finally mentioned in the final two lines of the poem.
Dharker is reminding the reader at the end of this poem that it is important to remember that water is a true blessing for these people and this community because they were deprived of it, and by concluding the poem with the word “small bones,” she stresses the notion that they are not rid of all their problems as they seem to be lacking in proper nourishment as well. By ending in this manner she is bringing the reader’s attention to the fact that even if the community has received this one blessing of water, they are in need of many more.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Blessing’ should also consider reading some other Imtiaz Dharker poems. For example:
- ‘Honour Killing‘ – is about the fight for freedom and the ability to express oneself fully.
- ‘In Wales, wanting to be Italian‘ – contains the thoughts of the poet as they seek out a word that adequately describes their youthful dreams.
- ‘Living Space‘ – expresses the physical poverty of those living in poorly constructed homes.
- ‘The Right Word‘ – is about the poet trying to find the right way to describe the person at their door.