At 7 and 21

During Round 1 of college, back in the late 80’s (after boobs but before marriage) I fancied myself a poet. A most excellent poet and professor, Alice Friman, said I wasn’t bad, either. Coming from her, that was quite a compliment.

I thought I knew enough about life to write the following poem, for which I won my university’s poetry award.

At 7

I was seven.
As I sprawled my limber limbs
upon the country
I rolled as a girl of seven,
and nothing could hurt me.
It was yet spring.

Summer came, and as I galloped barefoot
through the heavy air
my tender feet felt the sting
of the unexpected.
I sat cross-legged in the grass
to see what it was
that caused me pain.

As my red hair streamed across my face
I touched a pointed object
within the grass.
An imperfect brown sphere
hidden and dead
covered with thorns
like a medieval mace
had crashed through my bare skin,
leaving a ruby of blood.

There, in my seventh year, I discovered
that amidst the running, the limb lofting,
the little purple flowers,
there was a salty stinging
that made me put on my shoes
cover my free feet.

I sat inside in my yellow print dress
tears tumbling from my cheeks
onto my soles.


Thinking about myself at 21, writing this poem about when I was 7, I realize that I could now write the same kind of poem about myself at 21. I thought then that I knew about a loss of innocence, about pain and grief. And to my credit, I guess, I did know some. A year before, I had lost my best friend because of a brutal crime.

What I didn’t know what was I would gain and lose, gain and lose again, and again, for the next couple of dozen years. I didn’t know I would become tough, and soft, and smart. I didn’t know how becoming a wife, a mother, and eventually a whole conglomerate of a human being, would change me. I thought at 21 I knew it all. What I know now is that 25 years from now, I will look back and say, “I thought at 45 I knew it all.”

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