At the end of my suffering 

there was a door.


Hear me out: that which you call death 

I remember.

The speaker opens the poem with these four lines, where they address the reader and introduce their primary subject: death. The speaker introduces the subject of death through the image of a door. In the English-speaking world, there is a long tradition of using the image of a door to symbolize death. This tradition has become so familiar that we often say that a dying person is “knocking at death’s door.” Doorways are thresholds that mark the passage from one space to another. Likewise, death is frequently imagined as a passage out of the realm we know (i.e., life) and into another realm, whose dimensions remain mysterious to us. The poem’s speaker adopts this traditional image of death as a door, only to turn around and immediately complicate conventional human thinking about death on a more general level. Note how, in lines 3–4, the speaker refers not to death but to “that which you call death.” This phrasing signals that the speaker has a unique perspective on death—so unique, in fact, that it may refute or reframe the very idea of death. As we read further, we soon discover that the speaker does indeed reframe death as a form of rebirth.

You who do not remember 

passage from the other world 

I tell you I could speak again: whatever 

returns from oblivion returns 

to find a voice:

In lines 16–20, still addressing the human reader, the wild iris implies that we don’t remember what came before our arrival in the world. As a result of our ignorance, we are led into the illusion that life has a distinct beginning and ending. We believe that we appear in the world suddenly, and we likewise disappear from the world suddenly. While we are in the world, we take part in being. But when we leave the world, we exit being and become part of nothingness. Between life and death—being and nothingness—there is no continuity. For the speaker, however, what we call death might be better understood as a period of forgetfulness, one where conscious awareness dwindles away. But this period of “oblivion” is not an end. As the speaker insists, all beings return from oblivion, and when they do they find a new voice and make a new way in the world.

from the center of my life came 

a great fountain, deep blue 

shadows on azure seawater.

The speaker closes the poem with these lines (21–23), where they evoke a mysterious image of the ocean. It’s a particularly strange and even surprising image for a domesticated garden plant to conjure, for it’s unclear how they could be aware of something so distant and vast as the sea. Yet this image of the ocean seems to emerge organically from within the speaker, as if their knowledge of the sea is somehow innate rather than learned. Put differently, the image seems to be derived from the speaker’s embodied experience of their own vitality as it erupts from the very center of their being, like “a great fountain.” Understood in this way, the “deep blue / shadows on azure seawater” may be an esoteric image that conveys the mysterious feeling of life as it reemerges within the plant at the onset of spring.