'One Year' by Sharon Olds

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When I got to his marker, I sat on it,
like sitting on the edge of someone's bed
and I rubbed the smooth, speckled granite.
I took some tears from my jaw and neck
and started to wash a corner of his stone.
Then a black and amber ant
ran out onto the granite, and off it,
and another ant hauled a dead
ant onto the stone, leaving it, and not coming back.
Ants ran down into the grooves of his name
and dates, down into the oval track of the
first name's O, middle name's O,
the short O of his last name,
and down into the hyphen between
his birth and death--little trough of his life.
Soft bugs appeared on my shoes,
like grains of pollen, I let them move on me,
I rinsed a dark fleck of mica,
and down inside the engraved letters
the first dots of lichen were appearing
like stars in early evening.
I saw the speedwell on the ground with its horns,
the coiled ferns, copper-beech blossoms, each
petal like that disc of matter which
swayed, on the last day, on his tongue.
Tamarack, Western hemlock,
manzanita, water birch
with its scored bark,
I put my arms around a trunk and squeezed it,
then I lay down on my father's grave.
The sun shone down on me, the powerful
ants walked on me. When I woke,
my cheek was crumbly, yellowish
with a mustard plaster of earth. Only
at the last minute did I think of his body
actually under me, the can of
bone, ash, soft as a goosedown
pillow that bursts in bed with the lovers.
When I kissed his stone it was not enough,
when I licked it my tongue went dry a moment, I
ate his dust, I tasted my dirt host.
Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

One Year by Sharon Olds: A Celebration of Life's Cycles

Oh my goodness, where do I even begin with this beautiful poem by Sharon Olds? From the very first line, "The first year, out of the war" I was immediately hooked. The imagery of a post-war world, and the idea that a year has passed since then, sets the stage for a poem that is all about cycles and the passing of time.

Throughout the poem, Olds takes us through a year in the life of a family. We see the changing seasons, the birthdays and holidays, the milestones and the mundane moments. But this isn't just a laundry list of events - Olds imbues each moment with meaning and significance. She shows us the beauty and the pain of life, the joy and the sorrow, the growth and the decay.

One of the things I love most about this poem is the way Olds uses language. Her words are so precise, so carefully chosen, that each line feels like a work of art. Take, for example, this description of winter: "The sky was a pale sheet and the earth a hard, dark crust". Can't you just feel the chill in the air, the crunch of snow underfoot? And then, just a few lines later, Olds describes the arrival of spring with these words: "The daffodils were up, the forsythia / was in bloom, the tulips were opening / their cups." Suddenly, the world is bursting with color and life.

But it's not just the language that makes this poem so powerful - it's the emotions that Olds conveys. She doesn't shy away from the hard parts of life, like illness and death. In fact, these moments are some of the most moving in the poem. When she writes about her father's cancer, for example, she says, "he was getting smaller and smaller / until he was the size of a child". That image just breaks my heart - the idea of someone you love slipping away, becoming smaller and more vulnerable with each passing day.

And yet, even in the face of death, Olds finds moments of beauty and connection. In the final stanza, she describes a moment when she and her sister are holding their father's hands as he dies: "we were touching him, we were / giving him our touch, which he could no longer feel, / and he was giving us his touch, which we / could still feel." It's a reminder that even as we lose people we love, they continue to live on in us, in the memories and connections we have with them.

There's so much more I could say about this poem - the way it explores the complexities of family relationships, the way it celebrates the small moments that make life worth living, the way it captures the passage of time. But I'll end with this: One Year is a poem that makes me feel so grateful to be alive, to be a part of this crazy, beautiful world. It's a poem that reminds me that even in the darkest moments, there is still light and hope to be found. And that, my friends, is what great poetry is all about.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

One Year: A Poem of Love, Loss, and Renewal

Sharon Olds’ One Year is a powerful and poignant poem that explores the complex emotions of love, loss, and renewal. Written in free verse, the poem is a deeply personal reflection on the passing of time and the transformative power of grief. Through vivid imagery and raw emotion, Olds takes the reader on a journey through the seasons of a year, from the depths of winter to the rebirth of spring, as she grapples with the loss of a loved one and the process of healing.

The poem begins with a stark image of winter, as Olds describes the “cold, dark days” that follow the death of her loved one. The imagery is bleak and desolate, with the speaker feeling “like a dead leaf” and “a stone in the snow.” The use of metaphor here is particularly effective, as it captures the sense of isolation and numbness that often accompanies grief. The speaker is disconnected from the world around her, unable to find comfort or solace in anything.

As the poem progresses, however, Olds begins to introduce images of renewal and rebirth. In the second stanza, she describes the “first crocus” of spring, a symbol of hope and renewal after the long winter months. This image is followed by others, such as the “green shoots” and “buds” that emerge from the earth, and the “birds’ songs” that fill the air. These images are a powerful reminder that even in the midst of grief, life goes on, and there is always the possibility of renewal and growth.

Throughout the poem, Olds also explores the theme of memory and its role in the process of healing. She describes how memories of her loved one “come back like a song” and how she finds comfort in “the sound of his voice” and “the feel of his hand.” These memories are bittersweet, as they bring both joy and pain, but they are also a reminder of the love that once existed and the importance of holding onto that love even in the face of loss.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is Olds’ use of language and imagery to convey the intensity of her emotions. She describes the “screaming” and “howling” that she feels inside, as well as the “tears that come like a storm.” These images are visceral and raw, capturing the depth of the speaker’s pain and the overwhelming nature of grief. At the same time, Olds also uses language to convey a sense of hope and resilience. She describes how “the sun comes up” and “the world turns” even in the midst of sorrow, and how “the heart opens” to the possibility of healing.

In many ways, One Year is a poem about the cyclical nature of life and the inevitability of change. The passing of time is a central theme, as Olds moves through the seasons of a year and reflects on the ways in which grief and healing are intertwined. The poem is also a testament to the power of love and the ways in which it endures even in the face of loss. Olds’ use of imagery and language is masterful, capturing the complexity of emotions that accompany grief and the process of healing.

In conclusion, One Year is a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the universal experience of loss and the process of healing. Through vivid imagery and raw emotion, Sharon Olds takes the reader on a journey through the seasons of a year, from the depths of winter to the rebirth of spring, as she grapples with the loss of a loved one and the process of healing. The poem is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love to endure even in the face of loss.

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