I happened across a poem today that struck a chord because it so aptly gets to what it was like to be a teenager/adolescent. There’s so much going on that by the end of it you realize something has changed that you can never get back – and it is simultaneously exhilarating and profoundly sad and terrifying.
OK, before we get to the poem, I have a confession: I’m not a poem guy. I’m not saying it is bad or weird or anything… in fact I wish I was a poem guy. Poetry expresses things other writing simply can’t. It’s like poetry operates on another plane than other writing, allowing access to emotions, thoughts, and images otherwise untouched by letters on a page. I tend to connect to that kind of writing in songs and, as a result, words set to music (or even music without lyrics) are more likely to break or embolden my heart and speak to my emotion-of-the-moment, be it elation or depression or points in between.
Anyway, as a result I pay attention to poems that strike me as poignant. That’s not to say I am always struck by staggering poetic achievement. I’m just saying poetry doesn’t get to me as often as I wish it did, which makes me about as discerning in poetic taste as most dogs are with human food. But there’s a part of me that also feels I am ‘untainted’ by preconceived requirements for poetic significance. (As an aside, I think this relates to the increased popularity of the ‘common critic’ when it comes to all things art, although largely in movies and music, that you can find on the web by simply googling ‘movie reviews’ or ‘music reviews’.)
We are now firmly on a tangent, so I digress. This is the culprit for all this talk. Enjoy…
Sure You Do
by William Stafford
Remember the person you thought you were? That summer
sleepwalking into your teens? And your body ambushing
the self that skipped from school? And you wandered into
this carnival where all the animals in the ark began
to pace and howl? The swing they strapped you in?
The descent through air that came alive, till
the pause at the top? The door on the way down
that opened on joy? And then, and then, it was
a trap. You would get used to it: like the others
you could shoulder your way through the years, take on
what came and stare without flinching, but you knew at the time
it was goodby to everything else in your life.
The great door that opened on terror swung open.