What Is “The Return” by Edith Tiempo?

The poem “The Return” by Edith Tiempo is about the human ability and tendency to return to past glories and regrets through memory. The poem is told from the point of view of an old man remembering his earlier life experiences when he was a young sailor and adventurer.

“The Return” is not only a remembrance of things past, but it seems to suggest that a man can never return to the place from where he came. For example, when reflecting on returning to the place of his memories, the narrator calls himself “an old man cracking bones of his embarrassment apart.” The idea is that time represents a prison for anyone seeking to go back, and perhaps the idea of returning brings more anguish than satisfaction.

Born in 1919, Edith Tiempo was a Filipino poet, fiction writer, teacher and literary critic. She was the recipient of a number of awards in her home country, as well as being listed alongside her peers in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poets and Poetics and other respected publications. Edith and her husband, Edilberto, founded and directed the Silliman National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete City. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 92.