Roo Borson After a Death Meaning: The Life After Loss

after a death cover image

This is the meaning and analysis of After a Death by Roo Borson. I have attached the poem below. All rights to the poem go to Roo Borson, the poet. The poem here is for reference purposes.

Seeing that there’s no other way,

I turn his absence into a chair.

I can sit in it,

gaze out through the window.

I can do what I do best

and then go out into the world.

And I can return then with my useless love,

to rest,

because the chair is there.

After A Death by Roo Borson © Roo Borson (https://canpoetry.library.utoronto.ca/borson/)

After a death by Roo Borson is a poem that anyone can relate to, at least at some point in their lives. The poem, without being shrouded by the mysteries of metaphor, is about the loss of a loved one and the life after that. This article is about Roo Borson’s “After a Death” meaning, its implications, the relevancy of the poem in our lives. 

The title of the poem says “After a Death” and there is no figurative suggestion here. It means the life of a person (the poet in this case) after the death of someone she loved, most probably a male. Before we move to the line-by-line analysis, the overarching meaning must be discussed. 

The poem starts with hopelessness and ends with hope. It is about the experience of a woman who has witnessed the death of someone she loved. And with this death, her life has been sundered into two; a before and an after. The “before” life is something we do not know about, be in every case, we know what the “after” life is going to be.

After a Death meaning

Seeing that there’s no other way,

I turn his absence into a chair.

The poem begins with clear signs of hopelessness. The poet is stuck in indecisiveness. She cannot find a way to get over the pain and sadness she’s experiencing. And in this desperate hour, she turns the absence of the loved in into a chair. 

I can sit in it,

gaze out through the window.

These two lines are the most metaphorical elements of the poem and convey a lot of the poem’s core meaning. Turning the loved one into a chair and sitting in it does not mean that. The chair is used brilliantly to show absence yet support.

A chair is is something that gets designated to particular people, be it a reading chair, office chair, or dining chair. And when the person is lost, the chair becomes the constant reminder of the absence. This is what the poet means when she converts his absence into a chair. 

The other meaning of the chair here is to show support. The chair gives you a place to sit down and relax. To the weight of your body off your legs and rest. The poet after turning his memories and absence into a chair also gets support from him. She can not “sit” in it.

after a death window image

“Gaze out through the window” is another metaphorical element that symbolizes isolation. The reason she is looking out through the window is that she is within the confines of her house. The doors are closed and she can only “see” the outside world when she gets the support from the loved one.

I can do what I do best

and then go out into the world.

This is where the poet thinks about resuming her life, doing what she can do, have a necessary life, and do the bare basics of what is needed. She must resume her life “after the death”, but there would be nothing else for her. 

And I can return then with my useless love,

to rest,

because the chair is there.

The last three lines are of utter importance. This is the part where I have seen most of the confusion. “And I can return then with my useless love…” What does this mean?

This is where the poet refers to her love for the lost person. After her monotonous life outside the house, in the world, she can come home again, to the place where the chair sits. The “useless love” here is her love for the man she lost. Useless because the person is gone. The love is there but the recipient is lost. 

But the loss doesn’t mean all is gone. The chair is there when she comes home. The chair is where she can rest. The person may be gone but he is present in a different form. 

The chair represents support, solace, and a connecting link between life before and after “a death”. The chair is the person who isn’t anymore, and he still gives him comfort. 

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About Roo Borson 

Roo Borson is a Canadian poet born in 1952. In her early days we’re influenced by the giants of poetry world such as Shakespeare and William Wordsworth. She fell in love with poetry at an early age.

Her use of figurative and literal language in a mix makes her poetry special. This added to the core tragedies humans go through gives her poem a personal attachment. 

The structure of the poem 

There is a reason for the peculiar structure in the poem. That peculiar structure here is that there’s no structure at all. The poem is a mess when it comes to meter, rhyme, stanza, etc. 

The reason for this is the poet wanted to show the disarray she narrator is. There is no pattern or structure in the life of the narrator after death. Just chaos and hopelessness.

But notice how the pattern starts to change when the poet decides to pull her life together and start living a life, even though a colorless one.

I can do what I do best

and then go out into the world.

And I can return then with my useless love,

to rest,

because the chair is there.

Notice how similar colored words start rhyming. We start seeing a structure here. The internal rhyming in the last line shows harmony, it shows content and calmness, a sense of happiness that the chair brings. These uses of rhymes in a particular way enhance the poem and makes it connect so well with the readers.

The poem used here is for reference purposes. We could not find a reliable place to link to where the poem was available. Do note that the copyrights belong to Roo Borson and this is her work. Wordsrum has cited it.

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