Weekly Poem: ‘I Go Back to May 1937′

BY Mike Melia  June 24, 2013 at 3:54 PM EDT

By Sharon Olds, read by John Lithgow

  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.

Sharon Olds is the author of several books of poetry, including “The Dead and the Living,” winner of the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award; “The Unswept Room,” a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. “Stag’s Leap,” which was published in 2012, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University.