Poetry Analysis - Passed on by Carole Satyamurti

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In the poem “Passed On” by Carole Satymurti, the speaker tells a story almost as in a novel of their mother and how she left them a box of index cards with advice on life when she died. The speaker’s gender seems to be female. In the poem, the poet presents the theme of growing up and becoming one’s own person through the maturation and acceptance process. She personifies the index cards themselves, comparing them to her mother. They also characterize the speaker and her mother and create a mood of sadness and longing, implying that perhaps the mother has been dead for some time, but the speaker has never truly accepted this.

The title of the poem seems to have three meanings. On the one hand, the speaker seems to have grown up since their mother’s passing. As she grows and matures, the cards her mother left her “seemed to shrink.” She would find parts of the cards “blank, the edges furred, mute, whole areas wrong, or missing.” There is a certain point in her life in which she realizes that her mother is not infallible and makes mistakes just like everyone else. Whereas earlier in her life she felt like “the world was box-shaped,” that her mother had included everything that she would need in this box full of index cards, she might have had many experiences which her mother could not have perceived and therefore not written anything about them. This feeling of growing up and becoming your own person may be the meaning of the title “Passed On.” The speaker has passed up her mother in terms of maturity and her mother can no longer teach her what she was able to before. The death of her mother itself may be the meaning of “Passed On.” The speaker tells of burning the index cards, stating, “the smoke rose thin and clear, slowly blurred.” By burning the cards, she is giving herself closure in a symbolic manner, almost as though she were cremating her mother. Earlier, she states that her mother had “rendered herself down from flesh to paper” and she would “shuffle...
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