Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Little Box

A while back, I wrote a post about being claustrophobically surrounded by boxes, because I had just moved, and had not yet unpacked. Robin suggested that Vasko Popa had some good poems about boxes. I found one at the ezine pith:

The Little Box

The little box gets her first teeth
And her little length
Little width little emptiness
And all the rest she has

The little box continues growing
The cupboard that she was inside
Is now inside her

And she grows bigger bigger bigger
Now the room is inside her
And the house and the city and the earth
And the world she was in before

The little box remembers her childhood
And by a great longing
She becomes a little box again

Now in the little box
You have the whole world in miniature
You can easily put in a pocket
Easily steal it lose it

Take care of the little box

Vasko Popa, from Homage to the Lame Wolf
Oberlin College Press

She, the little box, is born into the large cupboard of the world. As she grows and gets her "teeth"--her experiences, her sense of self and purpose, her gumption--the world is born inside her, into the empty place reserved for it. After a time, she longs for childhood when the world was big and magical and outside; so she is once again born into it. Now we have the "whole world in miniature," where the sense of self and purpose has intimately tied to the world, but small and easily lost or stolen. Therefore, self, purpose, and the relationship to the world must be protected and cherished.

One can also read that the child herself must be protected and cherished. I read both.



Anonymous said...

Boxes inside of boxes. The little box inside the cupboard (box) later encompasses the world (box). A metaphor for growing up and reaching back to one's childhood. Reminds me of those Russian matreshka nesting dolls, speaking of childhood.

I like reading this today. Much the way I have felt these last few days. Thanks.


Danny Sillada said...

I share your thoughts and experiences about boxes, of moving to a new place and of adjusting to a new environment. My life is full of boxes literally and figuratively. The poem strikes me how my own fragile box can grow bigger and how it can crumble instantly.

Having a new place to find meaning with, I still have a lot of unopened boxes just waiting at the corner to be opened. And every time I open one, my heart aches because there inside in each box are traces of some bitter past while others, are dreams yet to be fulfilled.

Of all the boxes at the corner, I can identify myself most on those boxes labeled with “FRAGILE”!

Thanks dearest Amy for your sweet and inspiring words on my recent post.

My best regards,


fin said...

Boxes freak me out too. Though I used to love playing with them and building forts in my living room.

Amy said...


I remember playing with boxes when I was a kid. I loved that feeling of privacy and voluntary self-containment. Now, I love to watch my cats play in boxes.

Robin said...

I'm glad to be reminded about the box poems because it looks like now we're going to move too!

Gilbert Koh said...

To me, this is one of those poems which you won't successfully pin down to a single literal context.

The poem means many, many things. I even smell death in it. In the last stanza, you hold in your hands a little object of sentimental value, that reminds you of someone who lived long, experienced the world, grew old and finally died.

That is why the little box is a microcosm of the world. It reminds you of an entire life, spanning many decades, it reminds you of the great body of human experience that this now-deceased person must have had, between the time of birth, and the time of death.