Literature · Poetry

Teleology by May Swenson (Poetry Analysis)


                                          “The eyes look front in humans
Horse of dog could not shoot

seeing two sides to everything.
Fish, who never shut their eyes

can swim on their sides, and see
two worlds; blunt darkness below;

Above, the daggering light
Round as a burr, the eye.

Its whole head, the housefly
sees in a whizzing circle

Human double-barreled eyes,
in their narrow blind trained

forward, hope to shoot and hit
–if they can find it–

the backward-speeding hole
in the Cyclops face of the future.”

-May Swenson

The meaning behind Swenson’s poem isn’t all that clear. However, I believe it deals with evolutionary progression among different species. “The eyes look front in humans / Horse or Dog could not shoot” This is possibly suggesting that humans tend to progress and rise above other species on earth. Animals, like the horse and dog, on the other hand “could not shoot”. Meaning, they do not progress as much as humans in terms of evolution. The use of the word “shoot” hints at the speaker referring to guns.

This would be an example of human advantage over other animals.

Then there’s the mention of the fish and fly. The poem references how they see, indicating the fact they can’t have the same focus on progression as humans do. Unlike the other creatures, humans have “narrow blind trained” eyes, that allow them to focus on long-term goals.

And, therefore, they will rise above the others until they reach “the cyclops face of the future”

Swenson’s poem is memorable and wonderfully crafted. It leaves the reader wondering since there’s something very enigmatic about the poem. The final line is very powerful and, for some reason, I pictured Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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