Hey, the play’s beginning.
What do you mean you won’t be there for the start?
What else do you have to do?
Alright, fine, when the lead actor calls for audience involvement, you show up.
Hey, the play’s a third of the way through, the lead actor’s calling for audience involvement. What you’re supposed to do first, is make a lot of noise.
Now watch the play.
What do you mean? What’s wrong with the lead actor saying their lines behind that wall most of the time? It’s for dramatic effect. Don’t you know about theater?
How many times are you going to go to the concession stand? You’ve missed some really important parts.
What’s that? Oh, the lead actor’s speaking in Dutch. You do know Dutch, right?
What’s that? You have to go make a phone call? Alright, but this is a good part coming up.
Hey, you’ve missed about a quarter of the play with that call. What? Oh, what happened? Well, that guy there, well, he used to be married to her over there, but now he’s married to her over there.
Hold on. What’s that? Hey, do you hear that? They are saying the lead actor has to leave the play. They need someone to take his place and finish it for him. Hey, you’ve been watching the play right? Hey, over there, this person here can take over.
Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. How hard can it be to finish an actor’s role in a play you’ve only seen part of? Here, here’s the program from the play. It should be enough to help you. You’ll do fine.
This poem is about an adult child settling a recently deceased parent’s estate as well as closing out their life. It uses a person watching a lead actor in a play as a metaphor.
In the poem, there are three main people: the lead actor (representing the parent), the person watching the play referred to as “you” (the adult child) and a third person who is also watching this play. This third person is the one speaking in the poem. Their words are the only one the reader directly reads.
The idea of the poem is to express the difficulty involved in settling a parent’s estate and closing out their life. The idea is that a parent has lived a whole life that the adult child was only part of. Now that adult child has to figure out aspects of their parent’s life from incomplete sources and close things out. The child has to figure out all sorts of things: bank accounts, property, vehicles, a will, bills, debt, credit cards, mortgages, insurance, etc. There are also things like: email accounts, social media accounts, personal items, etc. to deal with. Information about these things may be unorganized and limited. The idea is one of dealing with uncertainty.
The idea of the poem is a simple one: How does a person close out another person’s life, when they only know so much about it?
Now, as a point, there is obviously more to dealing with a parent’s death besides the practical matters addressed by the poem. Those things are obviously very important, they are just not the focus of this poem.
Here are what the different paragraphs mean:
First paragraph: The third person (not the parent or the adult child) announces that that parent has been born. This is the start of the play.
Second paragraph: The third person is questioning the fact that the adult child won’t be there for the start of the play (i.e. the start of their parent’s life). The idea here is somewhat metaphysical in that the third person is questioning someone who is nonexistent at the time they are being questioned. The idea in the poem though is simply to say that the adult child missed the start of their parent’s life (and therefore begins the idea of lacking information).
Third paragraph: This continues the idea of the second paragraph and is meant to be a little humorous. The thing that prevents the adult child from seeing the start of the play, is their nonexistence at the time it starts. The third person in some way questions what could be so important that they miss the start of the play.
Fourth paragraph: The third person is telling the adult child that they can basically start watching the play when they are born. The idea here, is that that is the moment when the adult child can start to see their parent’s life.
Fifth paragraph: When the play is a third of the way through, the parent’s life is a third of the way through. At this moment, the adult child is born. The third person says humorously that the first thing they are to do is make noise.
Sixth paragraph: Here the third person is telling the adult child to watch their parent’s life.
Seventh paragraph: The idea here is that while a child is watching their parent’s life as they grow up, they are actually missing most of it. For example, the child does not see their parent at work. The unheard words of the adult child at this point are basically saying that they are having trouble understanding the play because they can’t hear or see parts of it. The idea here is to stress that the adult child will have limited information later.
Eighth paragraph: The idea here is that the third person is criticizing the adult child for missing parts of the play. The idea is that the child grew up and had a life. They missed parts of their parent’s life.
Ninth paragraph: The point here is that the adult child, because they lack certain knowledge about their parent, has a hard time understanding certain things about their life.
Tenth paragraph: In this part, the adult child grew up and left home. That is represented by the phone call.
Eleventh paragraph: Here, the third person is saying that the adult child missed a lot of their parent’s life when they left. They try to summarize what happened while they were gone.
Twelfth paragraph: This is where the parent dies. The adult child at this point has to take over, settle their parent’s estate and close out their life.
Thirteenth paragraph: The third person states the main idea of the poem, that it is difficult to settle someone’s life when you only know part of what has happened in it.
In terms of form, this poem is presented as a one-sided conversation. Only one voice is heard: that of the mysterious third person. The adult child and the parent are not heard from directly.
Do you like poems with explanations?
M. Sakran’s self-published book of poems with explanations called Understanding: poems with explanations is available for purchase as an eBook for an available price of $0.99. Buy your copy today!
To help celebrate the self-publication of this book, there is a post series of poems with explanations on the blog. Above is a poem with an explanation for the series. This poem with an explanation (as well as the rest in the series) is not from the book. It is a different one that is part of this post series for readers to read and enjoy.