Post Series: The Poems with Explanations Series: Understanding

Today will be the start of a new post series on M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things.  Past post series have been: The Christmas Series, Seven Apples, The Citrus Series, The Tea Series, and The Orange Series.  This will be The Poems with Explanations Series.

This series will be a series of poems with explanations.  Poems with explanations have appeared frequently on this blog, and this will be a series of them.

The series will start with this post and contain nine other posts.  The series will run from today through Friday March 18, unless something interrupts it.

The idea of poems with explanations, is to help readers understand how poems are written, learn to see symbolism in poems, get ideas for symbolism in poems, and learn how form affects poems.  Hopefully readers will enjoy the series.  Here is the first poem with an explanation:


A sledge hammer is swung,
a hope for the bell,
but the crowd roars.

No one counts,
a few slaps to the face,
here’s some water,
then hail stones fall.

A hope for cotton,
there it is,
dabbing a forehead,
pulling back,
the battering ram swings.

There on the ground,
amid the tiny particles,
there’s no darkness.

So there’s spinning,
and revolutions,
and there on the outside,
the former stands.

Looking in,
seeing nothing,
but a tap with a feather,
a shout,
and a force,
and then,
as h taps the shoulder,
an understanding,
and cotton flies.


This poem is about understanding the illness or physical pain of others.  Often when someone complains of illness or physical pain, it is easy to be dismissive.  It is easy to say, “That pain’s not real.  It’s not that bad.  It’s just in your head.  Just deal with it.”  It’s easy to be frustrated or annoyed with the illness or pain of another, if that illness or pain causes some inconvenience.  Obviously, these feelings are wrong, however, they can be easy to feel – until of course, a person stops and thinks back to a pain or illness they have had or felt and what it was like to hear dismissive words.  Then a sense of empathy can arise and feelings can change.

The poem uses a number of metaphors to express the main idea.  The main metaphor is that of boxing.  The poem uses boxing to describe an illness someone has and then to describe when they are on the other side of someone else’s illness.

The first stanza describes a boxer being hit and falling down.  The boxer is hoping the round will end, but it doesn’t.

In the second stanza, the boxer, after being hit, is hoping for the referee to count them out, so the match can be over.  Instead, they get to their feet, and go to their corner.  In their corner, their coach slaps them in the face a few times to wake them up and splashes some water on them.  The boxer goes back to fight and gets hit again.

In the third stanza, as the boxer is being hit, they are hoping their coach will throw in the towel.  Instead, when they look at their coach, their coach is using the towel to clear some sweat from their own forehead.  As the boxer glances, they are hit with a hard blow.

In the fourth stanza, the boxer is on the ground, but doesn’t pass out.  They are counted out, but still feel the pain.

In the fifth stanza, years go by and the boxer is now a coach standing on the ringside while their own fighter fights.

As they watch the fight, they see their boxer get hit, but think of the blows as not hurting.  They shout for their fighter to keep going and fight harder.  Then, they have a memory.  They think back to when they fought and what their coach had done.  As they feel a sense of hypocrisy, they feel an empathy for their fighter, and throw in the towel.