I read this poem out loud the first time I came across it. It is heart wrenching, but take a closer look at it and you will see the connections to an important spiritual understanding, which I will discuss below it.
(Sharon Olds is an American poet who is the recipient of many awards including the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award, and the first San Francisco Poetry Center Award in 1980. She currently teaches creative writing at New York University in the USA.)
I Go Back to May 1937
I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.
While this is such a unique perspective which Sharon has effectively written into this poetic form, and which not only brings the understandings for us, to varying degrees depending on our individual experiences and current perspectives on life, it lets us go deep down into our being; if we let it.
At the end, the poet acknowledges that she is here because of them — she wants to be here. She shows that she is angry based on their decisions in life, through the use of the words around banging paper dolls together. But what this poem is lacking, is the message that her parents were a big part of what made her who she is today.
It reaches our emotions, but I think it fails to approach the important understanding that we have chosen to go through such experiences, so that we can grow and learn as spiritual beings, usually over a multitude of lifetimes.
Below is a prose piece that I just put together and then formed into a poem, which provides a personal perspective and goes to further expand upon Sharon’s poem above.
The pattering of heavy rain
against the window
was the sound attached
to the moment they first met.
Did I ever ponder on the possibility
that this may never have occurred?
A friend of a friend with an invite
brought the two together.
They mingled amongst the folk
as the Beatles sung their lyrics
on holding hands.
Hours passed and yet
they never approached,
though they both admit
their awareness of one another.
Perhaps this was the time for me to interfere,
if possible, from the other side,
through the veil,
and halt their eventual encounter?
Is this a choice I had?
As the years would bring with them
great suffering for me,
that took me so very close
to returning beyond the womb.
I did not interfere,
I chose this;
they chose this.
That rain started to fall,
and it picked up its pace,
as did the two of them with their decisions
to succumb to a destined approach.
They would look into each others eyes,
unable to fathom their future at all.
Good Vibrations played in the background,
as they started something
that would eventually end
in hate and regret.
For me, I see the beginning of the foundations
to what would first break me down,
but later build me up in unimaginable ways.
While an understanding sits within
that traverses beyond the grave,
I hold such memories that will be with me
for the remainder of my time here.
Memories that can not be forgotten,
but can be forgiven.