Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
- OK, so our speaker could be continuing to unfold the secrets of her witchy world in this stanza…or she could just be the crazy lady down the street who happens to collect lots and lots of junk.
- After all, we've got a pretty extensive rundown of random stuff in these lines. She's got everything from "skillets" to "silks" and, well, just about everything in between.
- It's almost like our speaker is creating her very own world – one that's completely removed from the view of the rest of society.
- If we bought into psychoanalysis, we might point out that any time someone starts to talk about "warm caves," it starts to sound a lot like a woman's womb. After all, they're both warm, hidden spaces which can nurture and be filled with…all sorts of things. Or "innumerable goods," as the case may be.
- Once again, the lists that fill up the lines of this stanza are pretty non-descriptive. Sure, we know that she's stashing skillets in her cave – but what do they look like? Since she doesn't really tell us, we're guessing that the actual things themselves aren't really all that important to her…what matters is just the fact that she's able to build a separate space.
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
- This line leaves our speaker somewhere between a fairy and a groundskeeper…after all, outside of mobster movies, worm-food isn't exactly a hot topic these days.
- It's interesting, though, that our speaker chooses to care for things – they just happen to be pretty strange things. After all, she's not cooking supper for the husband and kids. Or even other people. She's chosen allegiances that are far, far outside of the human realm.
- The juxtaposition of a pretty prosaic action (making supper) and a rather strange grouping of subjects (worms and elves) might just cause a tiny mental hiccup for most readers. It sure made us stop and think! We're guessing that Sexton wants us to feel how strange her speaker's chosen supper companions are.
- Funnily enough, there's something pretty sweeping her choice of company. If you were to create a hierarchy of beings, worms would probably be pretty close to the bottom, right? After all, they're only a few classes away from amoeba. And elves? Well, they're right up there with unicorns and fairies. (And if they all look like Orlando Bloom, we're guessing that they're pretty pleasant to be around.) It's almost as if our speaker is expressing her willingness to include everyone at her table.
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
- ...and then we get to the less-than-appealing part of her life.
- We hate to point it out, but we're noticing a pattern here. Just like in stanza one, the first few lines of this stanza imagine the world of a woman who chooses not to participate in "normal" life. And, just like in stanza one, the views of society eventually make their way into our picture of her. And believe us, they're not pretty.
- "Whiny" and meddlesome, this woman is no walk in the park. Then again, maybe that's because society chooses to misunderstand her – and her views. After all, the easiest way to dismiss someone is to call them silly…or meddlesome…or "whiny."
I have been her kind.
- Wait a second…haven't we heard this line before? Oh, right. It was the last line of the first stanza, as well. In fancy Shmoop language, we'd call this line a "refrain." (We don't want to spoil things, but it turns out that it's the end of the last stanza as well.) It's the last line of all the stanzas.
- Why's it so important? Well, for one thing, it makes it clear that the woman we read about in stanza one is actually not the same woman as the one we meet in stanza two. They're of a "kind" – that is, they're all similar. But they live different lives.
- Here's the funny thing about this refrain – it's the seventh line of the stanza. Which is, well, a little weird. Regular stanzas tend to have even numbers of lines (like four, or eight, or twelve). Even numbers of lines mean that things get rounded out, rhymes are evenly distributed, and the poem seems to set a smooth, even pace. Here, though, things are out of joint. Because the last word of this stanza, "kind," rhymes with line five ("disaligned,") there's an odd line out. Line 13 doesn't rhyme with anything.
- Want to hear more about the strangeness of this form? Check out what we have to say in "Rhyme, Form, and Meter." For now, though, we'll just point out that it's a little odd. A little weird. Sort of like witches. Or ladies who cook meals for worms.