This is one of several poems I’ve come across lately about childhood, school, and growing up.
I’ve always written more prose than poetry, and most of my poems are from my teen years, when I was having trouble accepting that I was growing up. The poems are filled with nostalgia for a simpler past and often have a tinge of melodrama, since I use strong language when I’m passionate about something. This one was modeled on a Sharon Olds poem, inspired by a photo of myself at age seven on a school field trip to a local bird preserve. Remember that I was 17 when I wrote it, so please forgive any hints of cheesiness.
Field Trip, 1988
I see them standing on a cobbled path by a white wraparound porch
I see myself with long braids, my hands folded primly, with Mickey Mouse sweatshirt and too-short jeans.
I see Meghan with binoculars around her neck
standing clustered with our classmates wearing bright mismatched colors
and unimpressed faces, their fine washed hair gleaming in the sun.
They are about to turn eight, they are about to enter third grade,
they are kids, they are angels with little round faces and straight bangs.
I want to go up to myself and say Enjoy your childhood — life gets harder,
Meghan will move away, you will hate adolescence,
you will break his heart and he will break yours,
you will feel confused. I want to go
up to myself in the soft afternoon sunlight and say it,
my slanted eyes looking up in alarm,
their faraway stare interrupted,
but I won’t do it. I want to leave innocence untouched,
before boys, before bras, before
melancholy and thoughts of death.
I watch my young face grow older in pictures. I say
stumble through life with squinty eyes, and I will write about it.