This is a unique poem that contends with some truly emotional subject matter within three fairly short stanzas. Focusing on the loss of a child in the first stanza, the loss of a home in the second, and the speaker’s fear of madness in the third, the poem touches on some of the most feared events in life.
Explore Grass Will Grow
‘Grass Will Grow’ by Jonathan Kariara is a poignant poem that addresses themes of loss, grief, resilience, and fear of madness.
The poem begins with the speaker pleading with the Lord for strength should their child pass away. They ask for the physical ability to dig the grave and request rain, for “grass will grow.”
In the second stanza, the imagery of a burnt house represents another form of loss. Again, the speaker asks for rain to cleanse the destruction, and then in the final stanza, the speaker begs the Lord not to send madness, as it is a pain they cannot bear.
The terrifying imagery of “moon hard madness” and the “yolk of the moon” breaking on them illustrates a fear of an uncontrollable.
Structure and Form
‘Grass Will Grow’ by Jonathan Kariara is a three-stanza poem. It uses two quintains and a final ten-line stanza. The poet does not use a specific rhyme scheme, but it does include repetition. For example, “For grass will grow” is used as a refrain and is seen at the end of stanzas one and two.
In this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include:
- Anaphora: occurs when the poet uses the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “If” starts the first line of stanza one and stanza two.
- Enjambment: This can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of stanza one.
- Consonance: This can be seen when the poet uses the same consonant sound in multiple words. For example, the “l” sound in “little” and “will” in stanza one.
If you should take my child Lord
Give my hands strength to dig his grave
cover him with earth
Lord send a little rain
For grass will grow
The first stanza of the poem is a quintain (as is the second). The first stanza speaks to the Christian God, referring to him as “Lord.” The speaker addresses the Lord directly, acknowledging a higher power’s control over life and death. This appeal also shows the speaker’s faith and belief in seeking divine assistance.
The act of digging the child’s grave with one’s hands symbolizes a deeply personal and painful process of grieving. The physical labor is not only an act of farewell but also a tangible way of coping with the loss.
The request for rain in this interesting poem is metaphorical. It represents a cleansing force that can wash away pain while also aiding in the process of healing. Rain nurtures life and helps things grow, so it also symbolizes hope and renewal.
If my house should burn down
For grass will grow
In the second stanza, the speaker asks the “Lord” for rain once again, but this time in reference to their burning house. They acknowledge that their house might burn down, and if it does, they hope the Lord will send rain.
The burning house represents a different kind of loss than the death of a child, but it is still profound. It can be seen as the destruction of security, stability, and memories.
The imagery here not only helps readers visualize the scene but also allows them to feel the discomfort and pain of the situation. The physical sensations also mirror the emotional pain of loss.
But Lord do not send me
The yolk of the moon on me.
The third stanza is the longest of the poem, breaking the quintain form and stretching to ten lines. While the speaker is very accepting of what the Lord is going to send them, they ask that the Lord does not “send… / Madness.”
Unlike the other forms of loss depicted in the poem, madness is portrayed as something entirely unbearable, an affliction more terrifying than physical loss or grief.
The speaker seems to prefer tangible, physical suffering over mental anguish. They ask for tears and even express a willingness to endure “hordes of horses, / Galloping, / Crushing.”
The final line is quite beautiful and asks that the Lord does not “break / The yolk of the moon on me.” This adds a mystical and mysterious quality to the concept of insanity.
The moon has often been associated with madness in literature and myth. Here, it represents something unreachable, overwhelming, and inescapable.
The purpose of the poem appears to be an exploration of human resilience and faith in times of profound loss and suffering. It may also serve as a contemplation of what a person can endure.
The main theme of the poem is the human capacity for endurance and renewal in the face of loss whether it is the death of a child, the destruction of a home, or the fear of madness.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also read some related poetry. For example:
- ‘A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London’ by Dylan Thomas – tells of a speaker’s inability to comprehend great losses.
- ‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou – speaks about loss as a tragic yet inevitable part of the human experience.
- ‘The Death Bed’ by Siegfried Sassoon – tells of the suffering and eventual peaceful death of a soldier mortally wounded in World War I.