Servant by Bienvenido Lumbera (Poem) - Analysis, Meaning

On the shut door of the mind
We knock, we of soul and body torn;
We who serve and are ignored,
Broken into pieces to be of use.
Our heads nod, our arms lift,
Our feet are quick, our faces turn:
We scatter our parts to the beck
And call of those higher than us.
Deep within, we have a name,
A story to tell. Against a harsh life
We’ve put up a fight, only
To end up with a servant’s life.
We serve the strong, we are
Feet and arms wanting to climb,
Heads and faces used to fool the law,
Will we be whole again tomorrow?
Up ahead the new day shines,
The change-of-fate we seek—
Then we shall rise again,
With our names and bodies back.

Anaylysis and Meaning:

This is a poem that laments the great divide between those who serve and those who are served. The great divide between the poor and the rich. The great divide between the corrupted and those who corrupt them. The great divide between the common folk and the elite. The great divide between the powerless and the powerful. The great divide between those born in the stinking slums and those born with silver spoons.

The speaker cries of the harshness of living as a lower being. Of belonging to a lower societal class. Servants serve while being ignored. Broken and grounded, servants give their body and soul to their masters. They have no choice but perform their master's instructions. They nod if they have to. They lift their hands if they have to. Their feet are always ready to move and their faces are always ready to turn should their masters tell them to.

Making matters worse is that servants have no choice but call on their masters. They depend on their masters for almost everything. This further strengthens the hold that their masters have over them.

Servants have names. They have life stories. They have feelings. They have ambitions. But all of these almost mean nothing because they are enslaved by their masters, physically and mentally. It's a very harsh life that involves fighting for existence and recognition every single day.

Everything is stacked against the servant. What are the odds that the servant can get out of his predicament? The speaker in the poem asks: "Will we be whole again tomorrow?" The speaker answers his own question with the suggestion that there is indeed hope. "Up ahead the new day shines," he exclaims. It's possible. The fates of servants can change. They can hope for something better. And to achieve that, they have to rise. They have to rise with the intention of getting their "names and bodies back."

The word "rise" in the poem is a metaphor for revolution. It could be a personal revolution (improving your status in your community) or a national revolution (political revolution).

Other poems by Bienvenido Lumbera worth reading: Ka Bel, A Eulogy of Roaches