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A dime, another ball, is worthless. Now
He senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions. People will take
Balls, balls will be lost always, little boy.
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up.
The poet emphasises that one must be allowed to express their emotion rather than being forced to suppress. For example, when one of our friends is feeling sad due to a loss, we might immediately want to help them, and therefore say things like 'Don't cry' or 'Don't be sad'. We think it is our way of consoling them, but we do not realise that suppressing emotions can lead to later outbursts and can also hinder our learning experience from the incident. The poet, therefore, does not want to unnecessarily intrude into the scenario where the boy loses his ball. He prefers to be a mute spectator.
The poet also says that there is nothing that can replace any loss in the world. Every object/person is special and no matter how much money or equally similar objects are given, they cannot be replaced. This is because we hold special memories of each object in our life. The person who gifted it, the memories of friends who played ball with him, and the games and places associated with it make the ball special and unique for the boy. The ball might cost a dime, so if he is given another dime with which he can buy another ball, it will not repair his loss. Even if he is given another ball, it would be a different one, not carrying the memories of the lost ball with it. Now that the boy has processed his emotions, The poet says that he has learned responsibility from this loss. He has become mature as he realises that life is filled with loses and gains of one's possessions.
A Dime
The ball in the poem denotes everything that is materialistic/non-materialistic. So the boy realises that life is not so smooth and people will take away things that are dear to him, and that he has to learn to face it. The poet tells the boy that no one can buy back something that is lost forever. Money cannot buy everything. People tend to think that it is alright to lose a few things as they can regain them with their wealth. But certain feelings and emotions attached to things cannot be bought by money. Amidst his desperate eyes to get the ball back, the boy is learning how to stand up for himself in a world where people tend to take away things dear to us. He is learning the true meaning of loss and gaining knowledge about it. It is not about accepting the loss, but it is also about learning to stand up and fight again after the loss. This is the important rule that every man must learn to succeed in life. Most men have learnt this knack, and now the boy too knows how to stand up after a loss, like them.
Meaning of difficult words:
A dimeMoney that values to ten cents in the U.S
DesperateFeeling hopeless
Epistemology of loss Understanding the nature of loss
Epistemology The study of the nature of knowledge itself
WorthlessNot good enough
PossessionsThings/objects that one owns
SuppressingHolding in
Mute spectatorNot saying anything
MaterialisticThings that can be touched and bought
OutburstGetting angry
ResponsibilityThe duty to deal with something
KnackThe skill to do something
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. The Ball Poem - John Berryman (pp. 46-47). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.