'No Return' by William Matthews

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I like divorce. I love to compose
letters of resignation; now and then
I send one in and leave in a lemon-
hued Huff or a Snit with four on the floor.
Do you like the scent of a hollyhock?
To each his own. I love a burning bridge.

I like to watch the small boat go over
the falls -- it swirls in a circle
like a dog coiling for sleep, and its frail bow
pokes blindly out over the falls' lip
a little and a little more and then
too much, and then the boat's nose dives and butt

flips up so that the boat points doomily
down and the screams of the soon-to-be-dead
last longer by echo than the screamers do.
Let's go to the videotape, the news-
caster intones, and the control room does,
and the boat explodes again and again.

Editor 1 Interpretation

No Return: An Ode to Life's Fleeting Moments

William Matthews' poem "No Return" is a poignant meditation on the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Written in a simple yet powerful style, the poem captures the essence of human existence in a few dozen lines. From the opening lines, the poem sets a tone of melancholy and nostalgia, as the speaker reflects on a past moment that can never be recaptured:

In that moment, the moment you wish you could hold Like a firefly caught in a jar, You know that time will never return, That there is no return.

The use of the firefly metaphor is particularly effective, as it captures the fleeting nature of life's most precious moments. Like a firefly, these moments are beautiful, elusive, and all too brief. The image of the jar suggests a futile attempt to capture and preserve the moment, as if to say that even if we could hold onto it, we would still be unable to prevent its inevitable passing.

The poem then moves on to explore the various ways in which we try to hold onto life's moments, from photographs and memories to rituals and traditions. The speaker acknowledges the importance of these attempts, but also recognizes their limitations:

We take photographs, make souvenirs, Light candles, remember our dead. But these are only tokens, not talismans, And they cannot bring us back to the moment When life was most alive.

The use of the word "tokens" and "talismans" suggests that these attempts to hold onto life's moments are merely symbolic gestures that cannot truly recapture the essence of what has been lost. The line "when life was most alive" is particularly poignant, as it reminds us that life is not a static thing that can be captured and preserved, but a dynamic process that is constantly evolving and changing.

The poem then takes a darker turn, as the speaker reflects on the inevitability of death and the finality of our mortality:

Death is the last photograph, The last souvenir we leave behind, The last candle we light before we go.

The repetition of the word "last" emphasizes the finality of death, and the fact that there is no going back once we have passed beyond the veil. The metaphor of the candle is particularly striking, as it suggests that our lives are like flames that burn brightly for a time before flickering out into darkness.

However, even in the face of this bleak reality, the speaker finds some solace in the fact that life is still worth living:

And yet, even knowing this, We go on living, making more moments, Catching more fireflies in our jars, Knowing that there is no return, But also knowing that there is no need for one.

This final stanza is perhaps the most powerful of the poem, as it acknowledges the inevitability of death while also celebrating the beauty and joy of life. The use of the phrase "making more moments" suggests that life is not simply a series of fleeting experiences, but a process of creation and renewal that is constantly unfolding. The repetition of the phrase "knowing that there is no return" serves to reinforce the central theme of the poem, while the final line "but also knowing that there is no need for one" is a powerful affirmation of the value of life in and of itself.

In conclusion, "No Return" is a deeply moving poem that speaks to the human experience of life and death. Through the use of powerful imagery and simple language, William Matthews has crafted a masterpiece of poetic expression that captures the fleeting beauty of life while acknowledging the ultimate reality of mortality. Whether read as a meditation on the passage of time, a celebration of life's moments, or a reflection on the meaning of existence, this poem is sure to resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

No Return: A Poem of Life and Death

William Matthews' poem "No Return" is a haunting meditation on the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of life. Through vivid imagery and a powerful use of language, Matthews explores the idea that we are all on a journey towards an unknown destination, and that there is no turning back once we have embarked on this journey.

The poem begins with a description of a river, which serves as a metaphor for the passage of time. Matthews writes, "The river flows. It flows to the sea. / Wherever it goes, / We'll be." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it establishes the idea that we are all moving towards a final destination, whether we are aware of it or not.

As the poem continues, Matthews explores the idea that death is an inevitable part of life. He writes, "We'll walk on our own feet; / We'll see with our own eyes; / We'll taste our own mouth / And smell with our own nose." These lines suggest that we are all individuals, with our own unique experiences and perspectives, but that we are all ultimately subject to the same fate.

Throughout the poem, Matthews uses vivid imagery to convey the idea that life is fleeting and that we must make the most of the time we have. He writes, "We'll hear what our own ears hear; / We'll feel what our own hearts feel." These lines suggest that we must be present in the moment and fully engage with our surroundings if we are to truly experience life.

The poem also explores the idea that death is a natural part of the cycle of life. Matthews writes, "The river sings its song, / And we know it is ours." This line suggests that we are all part of a larger, interconnected system, and that our individual lives are just a small part of a much larger whole.

As the poem draws to a close, Matthews returns to the metaphor of the river, writing, "The river flows. It flows to the sea. / And we know that the journey ends." These lines suggest that death is the final destination of our journey, and that there is no turning back once we have embarked on this path.

Overall, "No Return" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of life, death, and the passage of time. Through vivid imagery and a powerful use of language, Matthews encourages us to embrace the present moment and make the most of the time we have, while also acknowledging the inevitability of our own mortality. Whether we are ready or not, the river of life flows inexorably towards its final destination, and there is no turning back once we have embarked on this journey.

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