We Are Five

A simple girl, sitting in her school’s cafe booth,  

That studies for her classes with barely enough time for a breath,

And should be out in the town enjoying her youth,

What could she have seen of death?

I met a college girl,

She was almost twenty years of age, it was her second year at this school;

Her mornings were too rushed to even place a curl

In her hair with any heat tool.

She gave off a vintage sort of feel,

And her clothes were neat,

Her hazel eyes showed emotion, an emotion so real,

-Her qualities made me look at my feet.

‘In your family, how many members are there,

‘How many in all?’

‘In my family? Four for whom I care,’

She said with a voice not at all small.

‘And where are they today, if you don’t mind I ask.’

She said, “In total it’s five,

‘My sister is at work fulfilling her task,

‘Trying to make enough money in this economy to survive.

‘Two of us are probably at home –

‘My mom and my dad,

‘And then here using Google Chrome,

‘It’s me with my mouse pad.’

‘You said that two are at your house,

‘Your sister is at work,

‘Then it’s you with your electronic mouse,

‘But you mentioned that you are five’, I said hiding a smirk.

Then after a pause, the girl replied,

‘It’s five of us with me;

‘The other one of us died,

‘And he is buried under a beautiful tree.’

‘You breathe with more than one lung,

‘You are alive,

‘You are young,

‘But if one of you has died then you are no longer five.’

‘His memory is keen and the plants he would care for still remain green,’

The girl did reply,

‘He is right next to my grandparents,

‘They are by each other’s side.

‘I like to go and think while I sit

‘By their concrete graves,

‘I don’t think it will ever quit,

‘The sadness that comes and goes in waves.’

‘And sometimes when the breeze is blowing,

‘And the sun has started to go down,

‘The love I feel for him is so ongoing

‘That I think I might drown.

‘I wanted God to take away his pain

‘As he lay in the hospital bed,

‘And my eyes filled with rain

‘While the monitors blinked red.

‘So after the worst part of my life had begun,

‘We put him to rest in our homeland,

‘And all I wanted to do was run

‘Away from the part of my life that was unplanned.

‘And when the summer storms began to threaten the sky,

‘I knew it would almost be time for me to go,

‘But all I could go was watch and cry

‘As parts of me lost their glow.’

‘How many are in your family then,’ said I,

‘If one of you has gone to live with God?’

The girl then looked me straight in the eyes,

‘We are five, our number is still odd.’

‘But one is dead, he will always be dead!

‘You are old enough to understand that his body is no longer alive!’

Yet, I knew I was throwing my words away

Because for the rest of her life, this girl would say,

‘No. We are five. We will always be five!’


This poem is a parody of “We Are Seven” by William Wordsworth. The the original structure of the poem is maintained so that none of the poem’s vital characteristics would be lost. The same ABAB rhyme scheme is displayed in this version of the poem so that the style would be similar, while adding new words. The new words and the new story told by the poem is presented in the same way as the original. The subtle references made to today’s surroundings (a university, an educated female, a female in the workplace, a struggling economy, the internet, a cafe) are used so that the poem can relate to a contemporary audience. Wordsworth used a lot of nature in his version, but this version connects to modernity. The same seventeen stanzas are kept as well as the dialogue between the “author” and the character in the poem. William Wordsworth uses simple language in order to convey the meaning of life and death – or in order to spark the conversation on what is the meaning of life and death. In Wordsworth’s version, the little girl is naive and so it can be assumed that she does not understand what death is to the same extent as the narrator. However, in this version, the girl is presented as an older, more educated individual on the brink of adulthood. The point is to demonstrate how the concept of death can be understood, but it does not mean that people will change their beliefs or change the way that they think about their lost loved ones. Death does not have to mean that their spiritual presence is gone and by thinking of the dead as still being present, it may be a coping mechanism for some people. Five members are used instead of seven so that the poem wouldn’t be too similar. The member of the family who was lost is not specified in order to demonstrate that, no matter who it was that died, grief knows no boundaries and death is interpreted differently by certain individuals. It is also something that everyone must face in their lives and it will be felt differently through each person. The poem is particularly true because I used my own experience with death as a foundation for the poem’s story (I also chose Wordsworth’s poem because of my personal connection to it). The same formula that Wordsworth used is replicated to show that even people who understand death have a hard time accepting the absence of someone they love no matter the place and time. The time and the person can be changed within the poem, but the message of death and its meaning is still conveyed in the story.

-Maria G. Perez

Derozio’s Literary Instrument

In his poem “The Harp of India”, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio uses the harp as a symbol of India’s lost glory. Derozio grew up in a time when India’s Hindu population faced social turmoil. Since the Hindu society was unable to worship their idols, the backlash that Derozio witnessed motivated him to try and create social change. In the poem, Derozio writes

“Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;

Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on desert plain:”

These verses reflect the depressive effects of India’s social reforms. The “silence” can be interpreted as a reference to the silence of individuality because people were unable to express their beliefs in idolatry. Since Derozio was an advocate for the freedom of expression, his poem sought to reflect the struggles of his country so that his readers could by moved by his words. The poem reminisces on how splendid India’s past once was just like the music belonging to the harp in the poem is no longer “sweet”. The poem then reads,

“Those hands are cold — but if thy notes divine

May be by mortal wakened once again,

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!”

This part of the poem is a call for social change. The harp has not been played and the hands have lost their warmth from not playing the instrument, but that does not mean that it will never be played again. If the Harp were to be played again, then its music would be revived. This reflects Derozio’s beliefs in social change and the passion to live up to one’s identity. Just because India’s society faced a difficult time period, it does not mean that it can never be restored to its former glory. The significant culture that was once lost in India could be recovered and reborn if it were to be practiced by those who believe in it. Therefore, Derozio’s short poem is a reflection of a time period when India faced many difficulties, but nonetheless had the ability to restore its “Fame”.

-Maria G. Perez

Atwater, CA, 2019

Driving through the town,

Next to where the buildings end

And where the land becomes green with brown,

There are traces of sweat that drip down from the bodies that bend.

The hands have scars from the labor,

The workers know cries of pain,

But being able to rest is not something they favor

Because they’d lose a workday’s gain.

The workers begin to sigh

As they look down on their stained boots,

But there can be no tear from any eye

Because they are their family’s roots.

Most of the time they are tired,

But they continue to go back to the fields.

They cannot afford to be fired,

Since to their children, they are their shield.

-Maria G. Perez (William Blake’s “London”)

Laura Romero “The Field”

A Visual Portrayal of Grief

The second image titled “The Abbey in the Oakwood” by Caspar David Friedrich is a painting that bears resemblance to the words of the poem “We Are Seven” by William Wordsworth. In the painting, amongst the somber ruins of the church and the eerie illustration of fog (or perhaps morning dew), gravestones can be seen. It is clear that the abbey in the painting has been abandoned or it is broken down, and the state of the yard is unsettling. The gravestones reflect the two buried siblings of the little Maid mentioned in the poem. When the author asks the child about her siblings, she states that there are seven of them. The little Maid states,

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,

‘Beneath the church-yard tree”.

The painting includes many different graves, but it can be implied that two of the graves that are next to each other belong to the two deceased children. The subject of death is not a particularly happy subject, and the cold sentiment reflected in the poem enhances the feeling of loss that the mother must have gone through. The painting also includes many trees and a tree is mentioned by the child. When reading the poem, one can visualize the setting and the image by Friedrich adds a somber tone to the interpretation of the writing. When the author continues his conversation with the child, he tries to argue that there are only five siblings since two are deceased, but the child still considers them to be a pack of seven. Wordsworth writes,

“‘But they are dead; those two are dead!

‘Their spirits are in heaven!’

‘Twas throwing words away; for still

‘The little Maid would have her will,

And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’”

The painting may be a reflection of an adult’s view of death and grief. The child in the poem is adamant on stating that there are seven siblings, as if the two deceased siblings were still alive. The author – being an adult – continues his argument with the child and he expresses his understanding of death. The little Maid represents a child’s innocence and how it is easier for them to recover from certain losses because they don’t quite fully understand the severity of the situation. On the other hand, the painting and it’s sorrowful, empty feel may be a representation of how an adult may grieve and how they have to deal with the consequences of loss to a bigger extent than a child. Children may be more accepting of death while adults often have a hard time letting people go. The sorrow, grief, and depression that arises within an adult after a great loss can be felt through the painting’s visualization. Therefore, the painting reflects Romanticism’s ability to trigger a memory within the reader/viewer and may lead them to contemplate the meaning of their own life. The painting is a possible reflection of what may go through an individual’s mind when they come across a poem that mentions a particular subject such as death in Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven”.

-Maria G. Perez

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), The Abby in the Oakwood, 1808-1810

Rock is Poetry

Though at first it may seem that Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is nothing like romantic poetry, there are actually similarities between the two versions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s original poem may be seen as a classic and interesting piece of work today, but during his time, Romantic language and poetry was frowned upon. During its origins, Romantic literature was seen as vulgar and it did not make sense to a lot of people. This draws a parallel to the rise of rock music. When rock emerged in the 1950s and 60s, it was also seen as vulgar and it ended up creating a type of social revolution. Iron Maiden’s version of Coleridge’s poem is not unlike romantic poetry because it still reflects the poem in the same manner as Coleridge did. The difference is that Iron Maiden’s version was modified to fit society during their time while Coleridge’s version reflect the writing during his time. The same message is given. The difference is in the manner in which it was delivered. Coleridge uses a beat within his poem so that the words could flow and be appealing to his readers. His poem consists of imagery from the “mist and snow” to the ship that was

“As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean”.

The language is also poetic and reflective of the 18th century. Similarly, Iron Maiden uses poetic language as the basis for the lyrics of the song. Iron Maiden adds modern originality to the original poem, but the band also quoted the poem in their lyrics when they sang,

“Day after day, day after day,

We stuck nor breath nor motion

As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean

Water, water everywhere and

All the boards did shrink

Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.”

Parallel to how important beats are to poems, a rhythmic beat is essential to the composition of any song and Iron Maiden does that. The song can be interpreted any way one chooses to connect with it and that it how poetry works as well. A poem (and a song) can be heard and read by multiple people, and it will hold a different meaning to each individual because of its deeper purpose. Songs and poems both go through the poetic process of conveying emotion from the listeners and ultimately, they will find a way to connect it with their consciousness. Each person interprets the subject of the writing in a different context, but they each contemplate the meaning in regards to their own life. There are different variations of romantic language integrated into modern literature. Similarly, rock and roll has had a lasting effect on the music industry since there are all types of music genres that originated from it and are used everywhere today. Rock music and poetry were both creations that were once rejected by many people, but they eventually began to have an impact on society and they became integrated with the changes of the times, thus, creating a lasting impact.

-Maria G. Perez

Equiano’s Rhetorical Strategy

In his autobiographical work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano integrates a portion of Thomas Day’s “The Dying Negro” into his writing. “The Dying Negro” was an abolitionist poem published in 1773 that sought to express sentiment against the institution of slavery. Similarly, Olaudah Equiano’s slave narrative was another form of literary work that contributed to the abolitionist movement. While aboard a ship, Equiano has a frightening experience and states that “[he] called on death to relieve [him] from the horrors [he] felt and dreaded, that [he] might be in that place”. This statement reflects the fear that Equiano felt in that moment and how death felt like a better fate than whatever was to come after. Right after that statement, Equiano references Thomas Day’s poem and writes that he wished to be

“Where slaves are free, and men oppress no more.

Fool that I was, inur’d so long to pain,

To trust to hope, or dream of joy again.”

This part of the poem is mentioned by Equiano in order to demonstrate that he was able to draw parallels between other works of literature and his own life. Equiano longs to be free and live in a place where he could dream of joy, but he knows that because of his situation, it seems foolish. Equiano also continues to cite the poem and substitutes Day’s words stating

“No eye to mark their suff’rings with a tear;

No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer:

Then, like the dull unpity’d brutes, repair

To stalls as wretched, and as coarse a fare;

Thank heaven one day of mis’ry was o’er,

Then sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more.”

The use of this part of the poem highlights the misery that slaves faced and Equiano is able to verify Day’s words by attaching them to his own story. The fact that Thomas Day was white was significant because it meant that even white people knew that the actions taking place during that time by their fellow brethren was wrong. Using Day’s words is meaningful because literature was considered to be an important attribute of civilized and respected people. Equiano is demonstrating to the readers that just like any white man, he was able to read and write just like them – reducing the differences between them and suggesting that he was literate and trustworthy (just like the white man). Furthermore, Equiano is making it clear that he understands English literature perfectly and he is using it as a rhetorical strategy to bring the white readers to his side in order to ultimately make them agree that slavery should be abolished. Equiano continues with his narrative and once he reaches land, he continues to use Day’s words as a description of the thoughts he had when he saw those

“Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace

And rest can rarely dwell. Hope never comes

That comes to all, but torture without end

Still urges.”

Thomas Day never experienced slavery himself, but the fact that he was able to depict the situation so vividly and accurately enough for Equiano to use his words to detail his own experience as a slave is significant. Therefore, Equiano is using Thomas Day’s literature in order to prove the point that even free, white males can relate to Equiano and feel his suffering without having to actually live through the same experience. Thus, compassion and sentiments opposing slavery do not have to be expressed by only those who have gone through the same circumstances. This allows Equiano to use his own slave narrative as a literature of power in order to move his readers and persuade them subconsciously to fight against slavery just like Equiano and Day.

-Maria G. Perez

An Exchange in Criticism Between Pope and His Bullies

In Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad, Pope criticizes the writers of his time who (in his eyes) were stupid, unoriginal, and dull. Within his poem, Pope writes,

“None need a guide, by sure Attraction led,

And strong impulsive gravity of Head”.

Though the poem was difficult to understand, Pope may be stating that the Sons of Dulness rule themselves and they need no instructors because they consider themselves to be right in every path they take. Therefore, since they are self-ruled, they are unable to see their own flaws. The second image of Pope, where he is portrayed as a monkey or rat type of creature with his head and a crown illuminates this verse. Similar to what Pope insinuates about the Sons of Dulness, Pope’s critics put an actual crown on Pope’s head. The crown atop his head is like the crown of the actual church Pope, portraying the idea that Pope thinks of himself as superior in his writing. While Pope is saying that those individuals can’t see past their own flaws, Pope’s critics are portraying the same thing about him. Pope continues his satirical criticism as he presents a flipped world where actual intelligence is looked down upon and stupidity is praised. Pope continues,

“Who false to Ph bus, bow the knee to Baal;

Or impious, preach his Word without a call.

Patrons, who sneak from living worth to dead,

With-hold the pension, and set up the head;

Or vest dull Flatt’ry in the sacred Gown;

Or give from fool to fool the Laurel crown.

And (last and worst) with all the cant of wit,

Without the soul, the Muse’s Hypocrit.”

Baal was the enemy of the Israelites, or the children of light, because he was a false god in the Old Testament. The connection between Baal and the individuals in Pope’s poem create the possible idea that Pope might be suggesting that like this false god, the new Whigs and political leaders are the true enemy of the people and ultimately, a threat to original, honest forms of literature (since plagiarism was also occurring during this time). These new political and cultural individuals who began to rise with the changing times Pope witnessed brought forth “cant of wit” – or emptiness/lack of interest.

The image is a retaliation to Pope’s satire, but instead of criticizing his work, his bullies criticize his physical traits by illustrating his body as an animal’s. In the sketch, there are words that mean “know thyself”, which criticize Pope for criticizing others. Before going on to suggest that the writers around him were unoriginal and dull and that the changing times were going downhill, Pope’s bullies are sending the message that one should be completely aware of their own work and their own flaws before they go and criticize the works of others. The verses provide insight on how one should interpret the images because the call for criticism is more clear. When reading Pope’s satirical work and noticing his criticism, there is more understanding as to why Pope’s bullies decided to illustrate those images and why they were so offended. The specific verses illuminate the small details within the image. While Pope’s satire is embedded into a form of literature, his bullies integrate their satirization of Pope into a publicated drawing so that anyone who came across the image could see that Pope was a fool. The verses also provide insight on how the images should be interpreted because they hold political and cultural criticism. When there is an attack on politicians, leaders, and individuals of large communities, it can be expected that the retalliation will not always be so subtle and that is demonstrated. Once Pope made his criticisms clear, his bullies criticized him back in a bigger manner. While Pope’s writing couldn’t be accessed or understood by everyone, the satirical image of Pope that was published was able to reach bigger audiences and anyone could see that it was offensive (even if they were not familar with Pope’s The Dunciad).

-Maria G. Perez

Swift’s Satirical Parallels

In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift satirizes Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative. The satire begins in the first chapter, after Gulliver is shipwrecked onto a strange island. When he makes it to the island’s shore, he falls asleep, but when he awakes, he is bound by ropes. When he tries to break free from the bondage, he is shot with hundreds of tiny arrows and he “fell a groaning with Grief and Pain” (Swift 24). After Gulliver learns that it is best to remain calm and do as he is told, the people of Lilliput feed him “Baskets full of Meat” and drinks that “tasted like small Wine” (Swift 25-26). Because the people of Lilliput are small (around six inches), the amount of food they give to Gulliver is significant. Though he is supposedly their captive, they still feed him well and give him shelter. This resembles Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative because she is taken captive and is physically hurt during the act. However, after she begins to do as the native’s instruct, she is never harmed again and she is also given food. In one particular instance, Rowlandson is offered her peas and such when the native people were suffering from the same sense of starvation as her. The experience Gulliver has with the people of Lilliput reflect’s Rowlandson’s experience with the natives.

Furthermore, when he is explaining everything that occurred in writing, Gulliver integrates words from the Lilliput people. He mentions words such as “Borach Mivola”, “Hekina Degul”, “Peplom Selan”, and “Hurgo”. Though at first, he did not understand the meaning of those words, he eventually began to learn what some of those words meant. Gulliver states, “he cried out three times Langro Dehul san (these Words and the former were afterwards repeated and explained to me) (Swift 25). This reflects Mary Rowlandson’s writing in her captivity narrative because she also includes Native language words and she makes it clear that she learned the meaning of those words. Rowlandson created an unspoken bond with the Natives and despite her efforts to make it seem otherwise, Swift’s writing reflects her experience (in a more comical manner).

Gulliver is taken to meet the leader of the people – the same way that Rowlandson was taken to meet King Philip. Gulliver becomes more amicable with the people of Lilliput even though he is considered to be their captive because they do not exactly mistreat him. Gulliver sees the people as strange because of their physical features and that is parallel to the way that Mary Rowlandson (and white colonists) saw the Natives – as otherworldly. The parallels continue throughout the novel, but in this specific part, there is much similarity between Rowlandson’s writing and Swift’s fictional tale.

-Maria G. Perez

A Poem Imagining Apess’s Reaction to Rowlandson’s Narrative

He (Apess) was the grandson of a white man

But also the grandson of a native woman

His grandmother was the granddaughter of King Philip

He was born and taken to alcoholics at a young age

Only to be beaten and sold like an animal in a cage

He was no stranger to misfortune and pain

He then went on to understand religion and what from it there was to gain

Rowlandson was also devoted to God

So she tried to see her ordeal as part of her path

Apess may relate to the misfortune she faced

But he related more to the Native race

Apess read what Rowlandson had to say about her captors

She called them “heathens”

She regarded them as barbaric actors

She went beyond lengths to come up with the words to insult them

Apess could see perhaps where she was coming from

But he suspects she was surprised

To see the (native) children facing hunger

To see the lack of actual violence

To see how they live off the land and to know that her people were taking that land

Perhaps Mary knew she had been prejudice in her beliefs

Just as Apess questions whether it is right to have those prejudices

Apess knew that what was under white skin was no different than what was under red skin

But Rowlandson held onto her prejudice so that she would not be shunned from her own kin

But after living with her captors

And bonding with them – though she may deny it

Apess must wonder why it was so hard to defend them

To at least deny their savagery

To understand where their motives came from

A place of oppression

A place of inequality

A place of misfortune

If they had crossed paths at the same time

Apess could ask Rowlandson why

Why white people believe they are more deserving of God’s grace

When their skin is just one

Among dozens of other colors

Why she chose to degrade the native people and continue to secure her place among the whites

Why she chose to believe that her torture was part of God’s plan but not consider that

Perhaps that torture was placed so that she could understand those people

If her destiny was to come across the natives and live with them

Why did she not think that maybe her God put her there to learn

To change her preconceived notions

To see with her own eyes that the native people deserve better treatment

Better rights

Better imagery

Apess is of native descent and he believes in a God

So why was Rowlandson’s God any different or any better

If they both worship and live for the same God

Why are Rowlandson’s people more deserving

Or why do they think they are more deserving

Because of color

Because of what they think it means to be civil

Because of their ignorance

Apess has many questions

Many that cannot be answered fully even today

Because what happened back then

Still happens today

As if some aspects of time haven’t changed

The prejudices still exist

The color still pulls people apart

The idea of religion has been split into all sorts of parts

People will believe what they want to believe

People will not accept some people

People will be people

They will always hold on to the good and the bad

Both will always stick around

Because people will always find a way to justify their beliefs as good

-Maria G. Perez

A Colonial History of Violence

Mary Rowlandson was held captive for eleven weeks and five days after she and her three children were taken captive by a Wampanoag raiding party. The details of the brutality Rowlandson witnessed and at times endured give readers a look into the conflicting relationship between the colonists and the natives. Rowlandson’s interactions with the Algonquian people complicate and contradict the history of intolerance against native people during the English colonization period. Though Rowlandson initially endures brutality and suffers the loss of her baby, the development of her writing gives the natives a sort of humanistic perspective that early writers did not give before. For example, when Rowlandson is taken to meet with King Philip, she begins to weep and when a native asked her why she cried, she said that the natives would kill her. To this, the native responded no and that “None [would] hurt [her].” Furthermore, one of the natives “gave [her] two spoonfuls of meal to comfort [her]” while another “gave [her] half a pint of peas”, which according to Rowlandson, “was more worth than many bushels at another time”. This contradicts the idea that natives only inflicted violence upon settlers. In this scene, the natives display an act of kindness during a time when Rowlandson showed vulnerability and sadness. When Rowlandson meets with King Philip, he offers her a smoke of his tobacco pipe as a compliment and though she speaks about how sinful smoking was, she never explicitly states whether or not she accepted to smoke. In the ninth remove, Rowlandson learns that her son is less than a mile from her and when she asks for permission to go and see him, they allow her to do so. The simple and seemingly meaningless acts of kindness contradict the ideas that both people were completely intolerant of one another.  In a close-up view, the threats Rowlandson faced and the deaths she witnessed in Lancaster may cause readers to have sympathy for her. However, by looking at the situation from a historical, outside, and educated perspective, the deaths that happened in Lancaster and the threats Rowlandson faced do not evoke much sympathy. The conflict that led up to the actions taken by the Algonquian people were a consequence of the white immigrant colonists’ constant invasion on native lands (a consequence of their own actions and example of hypocrisy). When taking into the consideration the years of violence and constant dehumanization natives faced, one small raiding party and the death of some white colonists does not measure up to the hundreds of native people and children brutally murdered. Rowlandson’s writing does confirm the violence that existed between natives and English people, but only to a certain extent. Many of the threats Rowlandson faced were words and actual brutality was not commonly placed upon her. Her writing complicates history because the natives did not invade the small town just to inflict violence. They acted upon violence to capture the wife of a minister and to defend themselves against the constant white invasion. Perhaps Rowlandson restrained herself from including more details in order to protect her Puritan chastity, but the small details actually mentioned and the inclusion of native words only support the idea that she actually formed some type of unspoken bond with her captors.

-Maria G. Perez