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”

Poem by Sharon Olds