Revisiting a place of childhood, you might find things are different. Of course, the council might have moved that shopping mall, the botanists might no longer grow their gardens. That tree you used to climb might have fallen down. But in some cases, the places where we grew up remain the same, and it’s only our returning perception that has changed. Gordon Parks paints this perfectly.
The poem begins with Parks’ return. It has been ‘many snows’ since he has been home. Years have passed. He is now an adult and sees things differently. The passing of time has ‘whittled down’ the things he remembers. He explains to us that in the eyes of a child, things appeared in bigger proportions, places were inflated by imagination.
For example, the ‘great mountains’ he saw as a child are now, in his adulthood, ‘mere hills.’ Similarly, the ‘raging rivers’ have become ‘gentle streams.’ The ‘wide road’ thought to have lead to great places like ‘China or Kansas City / Calcutta’ has ‘withered to a crooked path of dust.’
The point of this poem, however, is what doesn’t change, and that is how Parks views his father. At the end of this piece, Parks describes the burial of his father. Cleverly, he illustrates a picture for us, naming him ‘the giant’ and how he ‘remained the same’ since childhood. It takes ‘A hundred strong men strain[ing]’ to carry ‘him to his grave’.
The journey of childhood through to adulthood has been expertly compressed into eleven lines. Park portrays strong images and comparisons that detail our developments growing up. It’s brilliantly done, telling a story that spans years in a reminiscent voice with language that will be sure to linger.
Why does Nesbit like this poem so much? Because it’s relatable, it’s heartbreaking, and it is a summary of growing up, something we all go through. All of us have loved someone and this poem reminds us that the way we see them never changes, not with age, not in death.
I do not own the rights to publish this poem but if you’re looking for somewhere to read it, here’s a quick Google search for you!
Looking for more poetry analysis?
Nesbit Likes: Digging by Seamus Heaney
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Nesbit Likes: Visiting Hour by Steward Conn
You broke the ice with a hammer.
I watched the goldfish appear,
blunt-nosed and delicately clear.
Nesbit Likes: For a Five-Year Old by Fleur Adcock
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
And we are kind to snails.
Any questions? Pop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org