by Theodore Roethke
The Waking Transformation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
I wake to sleep, (1)
You wouldn’t think a little word like “to” would have such power. On one side of this word is “wake”; on the other side of the word is “sleep.” What happened when your eye passed through this word? A total inversion that leaves the speaker in an altered state, that’s what happened. How you ask? Something funny is going on in this poem (and no, we don’t mean funny ha ha).
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how? (10)
Light may take the tree, but it also makes a tree, and we can tell you how. In a word, it’s photosynthesis, and if that isn’t an awesome conversion of light energy into bark and leaves and xylem, we don’t know what is. This “taking” has a lot more going on, so much so it’s pretty much inexplicable.
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair; (11)
Along with all this mystical talk, here’s a line that brings things down to the level of the lowly worm, that is to the material world. You may be alive and reading this right this second, your brain all abuzz with great ideas, but—brace yourself—that’s not how it’s going to be “always.” If you get buried, your body will be eaten by worms (to become the soil that grows the trees that makes the oxygen in the air). We’re all part of the great wheel of life, one thing becoming another.