Poetism Commentary: “O do not forsake me”

The poem in question: O do not forsake me

This is one of my poems that I thought was good then, and I still think it’s good now, and am not ashamed of it.  (I’m not really ashamed of any of my past works now.  I’ve entered the stage of life where I can look back and recognize the silliness, sweetness, stupidity, and self-aggrandizement of youth without too much embarrassment.  And by youth I mean longer ago than yesterday.  The recent past can still be recent enough to sting.)

This poem is quite simply a plea to the Almighty for help with life, though I suppose it could be just a plea for support and help in general.  It starts out examining regret for wasted time or poorly made choices, and yearning for what might have been.  This is something that I certainly still experience, and I expect that everyone does to one degree or another.  There’s always something we feel like we could have done better, or just differently, and that the outcome may have been an improvement on our situation.

From there it starts a descent into questioning: “Is this worth it?  Am I going to come out of this whole?  Am I alone here?”

Finally the questioning turns to despair, in the form of comparison to everyone else.  I touched on this briefly in my last commentary when I mentioned “the inevitability of not always being perfect, while thinking everyone else is.”

you look all around yourself and
everything you see is in place and
you’re not and you can’t see why and
it hurts

This is something that I think everyone deals with on some level.  For the past several months I’ve been working with one of my boys on the concept that just because someone else has something or gets to do something, it doesn’t mean that it’s unfair that you don’t have or get to the the same thing, too, and that’s okay.  It’s a difficult concept for a six-year-old to grasp, and I’m not sure how much easier it gets; as we grow we just channel the emotion differently, or prioritize alternative perceived inequities.  For my son, it’s something like “Why does my sister get that treat and I don’t?  IT’S NOT FAIR.”  For my seventeen-year-old self, it was probably something like “How come no one else has a problem controlling their thoughts about hot girls?  IT’S NOT FAIR.”  Today it’s “How come my friend saw the new X-Men movie on opening night and I had to wait two weeks?  IT’S NOT FAIR.”

In any case, the emotional burden can be, and often is, very real, hence the interspersed, repeated cries of “O do not forsake me.”  The idea that even though life is not perfect, and oftentimes it is really really hard, there is someone there to help during the bad times is comforting, because as I said,

I’ll never make it by myself
oh please have mercy on me

Now a bit about the writing style.  I really like what I did here.  The rhyming patterns, as well as the alternating stanzas ending lines in “and” and “or,” please me.  I also like the narrative progression.  The complete lack of capitalization or punctuation also works to emphasize the lost, lonely, and overwhelmed nature of the speaker.  This is only offset by the word “O,” which to me invokes the symbolism of a higher power being greater than the petitioner.  The only thing that bothers me a little bit today is the final line “before it grows too late.”  It reminds me of the Primary song I Am a Child of God, the tone of which doesn’t fit with my poem.  I don’t recall if I made the connection when writing the poem, but I suspect that it was kicking around in my head somewhere.

Finally, the title is probably a nod to the They Might Be Giants song of the same name, though definitely not of the same subject.

(Speaking of the self-aggrandizement of youth, it’s totally different than the self-aggrandizement of the present, wherein I marvel at and boast of my past awesomeness.)

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