World is what you swim in, or dance, it is simple. We are in our element but we are not free. Outside this world you cannot breathe for long.
The poem begins in the form of a dramatic monologue of the plight of an innocent dolphin voicing for all others in confinement. We see the world as a blessing, as a place to swim, dance and live freely. But what is presented by the poet is contrasting. The dolphins recollect their scattered dregs of oceanic freedom and beauty and mourn their present state in a shallow aquarium. The word ‘element’ refers to water, which though the same lacks richness and depth.
The other has my shape. The other's movement forms my thoughts. And also mine. There is a man and there are hoops. There is a constant flowing guilt.
The other refers to his counterparts in the same aquarium. Though not explicitly stated, the other’s movement forms his “ thoughts”. The reference to man and the hoopes meant for the dolphins to jump through are suggestive of apathetic human control over the helpless creatures which have, ironically, natural affinity with humans. ‘The flowing guilt’ is a metaphor for the water pumped through the pool and points out to its unnatural system. Men should be guilty of their cruelty.
We have found no truth in these waters, no explanations tremble on our flesh. We were blessed and now we are not blessed.
This shallow confinement offer to truth and satisfaction to their being. Now ‘ no explanations tremble on our flesh’. This portrays how much they are devoid of the reality. A dolphin which is known to receive a lot if information through its skin with a highly developed sonar is now unable to make sense of its existence. They recall their lost ‘blessed’ golden days of past in the ocean and now they are not blessed.
After travelling such space for days we began to translate. It was the same space. It is the same space always and above it is the man.
The dolphin has taken “days” to translate the truth of its new environment because it was so used to the expanse of free ocean, where it lived before being captured and put into an aquarium. It will now remain the ‘same space’ with monotonous music and the man( controller) above.
And now we are no longer blessed, for the world will not deepen to dream in. The other knows and out of love reflects me for myself.
They brings out the fact that they are no longer blessed and this “ world” which they inhabit now is not vast and rich as before. The collective voice indicated by the use of ‘we’ makes it clear that speaker dolphin is a representative figure. It indicates the everlasting search for truth. The world has become too shallow to ‘dream in’.
The mutual understanding between them is also stretched when it says “ The other knows… . reflects me for myself”. This is suggestive of a sense of otherness and respect for independence on the part of the dolphins.
We see our silver skin flash by like memory of somewhere else. There is a coloured ball we have to balance till the man has disappeared.
The sense of former freedom is recalled : “ We see our silver skin flash by like memory
Of somewhere else.”
The memory of the former times when they were in far-stretching waters haunts them and their never yearn is reflected. They remember when the natural sunlight reflected on their skin ‘ flash by like memory of somewhere else’. Here in this artificial world, they have to balance a coloured ball ( a replacement to the sun) in the presence of man. This sense refers to the control over innocent creatures without any sympathy.
The moon has disappeared. We circle well-worn grooves
of water on a single note. Music of loss forever
from the other’s heart which turns my own to stone.
The concluding stanza is full of pathos and bleak. In the natural world, the moon appears and looks beautiful. This moon has disappeared! The very beauty is replaced by a ‘ plastic toy’ in the man made aquarium. They whirl in the same monotonous whistle every day and their music of life is lost forever in this man-made confinement. The is no variety and no real music. This has turned the speaker dolphin’s heart to “ stone”.
There is a plastic toy. There is no hope. We sink to the limits of this pool until the whistle blows. There is a man and our mind knows we will die here.
They are well aware of the doom and are rendered hopeless. They know of their demise in this desolate pool of water with dreams crushed to its very roots. The ‘man’ will always control them and fulfil his greed.
The poet obliquely makes a plea for all trapped animals and hopes for their freedom. The voice of the dolphin reminds us of the voice of creatures isolated for various reasons.