Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Pact

We played dolls in that house where Father staggered with the
Thanksgiving knife, where Mother wept at noon into her one ounce of
cottage cheese, praying for the strength not to
kill herself. We kneeled over the
rubber bodies, gave them baths
carefully, scrubbed their little
orange hands, wrapped them up tight,
said goodnight, never spoke of the
woman like a gaping wound
weeping on the stairs, the man like a stuck
buffalo, baffled, stunned, dragging
arrows in his side. As if we had made a
pact of silence and safety, we kneeled and
dressed those tiny torsos with their elegant
belly-buttons and minuscule holes
high on the buttock to pee through and all that
darkness in their open mouths, so that I
have not been able to forgive you for giving your
daughter away, letting her go at
eight as if you took Molly Ann or
Tiny Tears and held her head
under the water in the bathinette
until no bubbles rose, or threw her
dark rosy body on the fire that
burned in that house where you and I
barely survived, sister, where we
swore to be protectors.     

-Sharon Olds

This poem speaks about Olds' own sad childhood. Her parents weren't there for her and her sister, so they only had each other. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother thought the only means of escape was suicide. Her father, when he got drunk, often directed the anger towards the mother. With no mother or father taking care of them, the sisters rely on each other. The sisters make a pact between each other to never treat their own children this horribly. Both of them take of their as if they were the sisters' own children. The sisters will not only protect each other, but the dolls as well that they see as their children. Olds poem gives a personal view about having a dysfunctional family. It is a personal recount of her childhood. Olds was just lucky enough to have someone else there with her. They must have relied heavily on each other and this must have made their sibling bond stronger. No one should have to be in such a negative environment. but to have not even one good thing must be even harder to deal with.

One Year

When I got to his marker, I sat on it,
like sitting on the edge of someone's bed
and I rubbed the smooth, speckled granite.
I took some tears from my jaw and neck
and started to wash a corner of his stone.
Then a black and amber ant
ran out onto the granite, and off it,
and another ant hauled a dead
ant onto the stone, leaving it, and not coming back.
Ants ran down into the grooves of his name
and dates, down into the oval track of the
first name's O, middle name's O,
the short O of his last name,
and down into the hyphen between
his birth and death--little trough of his life.  
Soft bugs appeared on my shoes,
like grains of pollen, I let them move on me,
I rinsed a dark fleck of mica,
and down inside the engraved letters
the first dots of lichen were appearing
like stars in early evening.
I saw the speedwell on the ground with its horns,
the coiled ferns, copper-beech blossoms, each
petal like that disc of matter which
swayed, on the last day, on his tongue.
Tamarack, Western hemlock,
manzanita, water birch
with its scored bark,
I put my arms around a trunk and squeezed it,
then I lay down on my father's grave.
The sun shone down on me, the powerful
ants walked on me. When I woke,
my cheek was crumbly, yellowish
with a mustard plaster of earth. Only
at the last minute did I think of his body
actually under me, the can of
bone, ash, soft as a goosedown
pillow that bursts in bed with the lovers.
When I kissed his stone it was not enough,
when I licked it my tongue went dry a moment, I
ate his dust, I tasted my dirt host.

-Sharon Olds

Olds is visiting her father's grave, and it has been a year since he died. The poem is very sad. Regardless of how much time has passed, Olds is still much effected by her own father's death. She has other poems that seem to speak about her father in a negative light, but he was still her father. The Olds uses vivid details which creates a scene of what is talking place. A woman coming to visit a someone, but their marker hasn't exactly been taken care of. There is dust and bugs on it. Weeds have started to around it. Olds ends until sleeping through the night on her father's grave. It is the closest she will every be to her father for a while. While she seems to have accepted for the most part that her father is gone, there is still that tug of denial there. Since he is physical there, maybe Olds doesn't feel as if he is completely gone. The death of a parent seems like one of the hardest things to deal with. This poem makes we highly upset, because I know that in the future it will be visiting my parents' graves. While it is a sad ,it is the harsh truth. It makes me think about the fact that while it seems long, the time on earth we have is short. In a previous poem, Olds' father had been dying of an illness and now a year has passed since he has been gone. Those to poems shows that time can't heal all wounds and that life can quickly be taken away.

My Life Had Stood - A Loaded Gun

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master’s Head -
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I’m deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die -
-Emily Dickinson
This seems to be a very dark and angry poem. It is not a regular anger, for Dickinson doesn't seem like that type, but instead is a calm and twisted anger. The anger that many haven't seem and it is often unexpected and surprising when it is released. In the first stanza, Dickinson seems to be comparing her life to a loaded gun. Her life is at a stopping point. Just like the gun is there until an owner, Dickinson waits for the dangerous emotions to claim her mind and take her away from it all. In the second stanza, Dickinson seems to be wondering about, her anger leading her. She hunts a doe, and speaks for Him. This could mean that Dickinson is wishing to release her anger on someone, yet the "speaking" is her way of releasing her anger. By the third stanza, Dickinson has begun to cool down some, yet the anger still lurks there. The smile isn't one of joy, but of anger. By the fourth stanza, it can be said that the anger has taken over. The anger is no longer her "owner", but is now the "master." Dickinson can not release the anger though, because that would be dangerous. In the fifth stanza, she speaks of her anger as being deadly to her enemies. By the end of the poem, Dickinson seems to be thankful for her anger. It is what makes her strong enough to kill, yet without it she will be killed. The whole poem is a lengthy metaphor. Dickinson and her anger are like a loaded gun and its owner. Dickinson isn't the one in control, her anger is. Just like when a person has a gun, they aren't in control, the gun controls them. The gun is what makes the person feel strong, like they can do anything. With it they can end a life, but without it, someone might end theirs. The same thing works with anger. It can fuel a rage in someone and cause them to do something drastic, but without it, a person can be taken down.

We never know how high we are

We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise; 
And then, if we are true to plan, 
Our statures touch the skies- 

The heroism we recite 
Would be a daily thing,, 
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp     

For fear to be a king.

-Emily Dickinson 

It is another positive and uplifting poem by Emily Dickinson. This poem is a motivation for people to do something great because they are great. The first stanza says that we truly don't know who great we are until we are put in a situation that allows for us to show how great we are. Then when the situation goes well and we succeed with our greatness, we feel like heroes or feel worthy of something. The next stanza speaks about how there are regular heroes that are seen daily and that we should not hide or be dishonest about how great we really are because that would stop us from being successful. Everyone has felt that feeling when they feel like they can do something great, yet they hold back. It can go deeper than just holding back our greatness. Doing something great and continuing it can sometimes require a lot of effort. For example, if a person is a CEO of a company. He did something great, but now it required hard work to maintain that greatness. That can be the fear of being successful that Dickinson speaks of, the fear of the responsibility that comes with it. Like especially now, with everyone worried about graduating. Success isn't always easy for everyone and sometimes it is harder to continue being successful than earning it in the first place. Like it can be easy to get all A's, but then keeping it that way can be hard. Being successful can be hard too, especially when even greater responsibility is given to you and you can't fail at the task. So in the end, maybe the poem does have a negative undertone. People can do greatness if they are given the chance, but no everyone can handle the responsibilities that come with being great.      


After we flew across the country we got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho  bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly form the left my     moon rising slowly form the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

-Sharon Olds

I feel that Olds often uses poems to express powerful emotions. In this poem, Olds speaks of someone she loves dearly. The two of them seem to be having or had an intimate moment and Olds is using the many comparisons to describe them. She speaks of the two of them coming together, like two parts of a map. She represents one half of the United States and her love represents the other have. She then moves on to describe those important places on the map. I like this metaphor for the fact that they are two places that wouldn't normally have anything to do with each other and then she slowly moves towards the middle. She starts out with far places like San Francisco and New York, then comes closer until both of them each represent a part of Kansas. Like they aren't supposed to be together because they are so different, yet at the same time they are perfect for each other. Everyone is always looking for that perfect other half, someone that is just for them. Olds describes this feeling perfectly in her poem. For the moment in the poem, she truly has that perfect person. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yesterday is History

Yesterday is History,
'Tis so far away
Yesterday is Poetry
'Tis Philosophy

Yesterday is mystery
Where it is Today
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away

-Emily Dickinson

This is another simple poem by Emily Dickinson. This poem is very different from the usual theme of her poems. While Dickinson usually discusses death, and immortality, this is a positive poem that speaks about enjoying living. Yesterday is the main focus of the poem, and this poem seems to say that people shouldn't focus on the past and move forward. The first two lines compare yesterday to history. To me, this means that like history can't be changed, you can't change what happened to you yesterday. Whatever happens yesterday is like your own history. The whole first stanza basically speaks of yesterday being the past. Yesterday is beautiful, like poetry is. A philosophy is basically the pursuit of the meaning of something. In this case, people often pursue the meaning of their own life. They waste so much time thinking that life passes them by. Also people tend to base current things off of what has happened in the past. People base today off of what has happened yesterday instead of treating everyday like it is a new beginning.  Dickinson tells us that yesterday and today are both two things that we don't know, but if we waste too much time focusing on them, then they both will be gone. While a human life is long, or can be long, it doesn't last forever. People should cherish the time they have because they will never know when something may be ripped from them.  People waste so much time on pointless things that don't matter that they don't see the good things they have until they gone. The poem reminds me of that saying "You never know what you have until it is gone." This applies more than just to materialistic things. It goes for people too. I think that this poem can really open society's eyes about the value of life.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

If I can stop one Heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one Life the Aching
Or cool one Pain

Or help one fainting Robin
Unto his Nest again
I shall not live in Vain. 
-Emily Dickinson

 While Dickinson's poems usually seem dark and speaks of death, this poem is really positive and motivating.   This poem is all about stopping something bad, to live a good life. She starts with speaking about a broken heart. If she can stop it then her life will have meaning. If she can ease someone's ache, relieve their pain, or even help a small bird, then her life will have meaning. This can apply to today's society. Too many people often have that moment in their life when they feel like there life is meaningless. Dickinson basically says help someone else, and you will feel better about yourself. It can be something big or it can be something small. People often set life goals such as being rich, or famous, or having a lot of something. Dickinson shows that life isn't about  materialistic things, but instead life is about helping others.  Help others because one day you are going to need someone to help you. With so much going one into today's society, people don't seem to think about others. We don't think about that homeless person who needs just a little bit of money for food, or even that person who may be struggling just to open a door. A simple jester could not only brighten their day, but it can also brighten yours.