Poem with an explanation: the hill, the valley, and the mountain

the hill
did look down
on the valley
and chastised it
for being so low

the wind blew
the rain fell

the mountain
looked toward the sky

 

This poem is about care for the elderly and perspective.  It is about relative positions in life.

In the poem there are three people: the valley, the hill, and the mountain.  The valley represents the elderly person.  The hill represents the adult child of the elderly person.  The mountain represents the child of the adult child.  This is three generations.

In the poem, the adult child is frustrated with their elderly parent.  They look down on them and chastise them for their physical incapability.  They can’t understand why the elderly person can’t be like themselves.

The adult child is oblivious to the progression of life.  In the poem there are three stages: a mountain, a hill, and a valley.  As a mountain erodes it becomes a hill.  As a hill erodes, it becomes a valley.  The adult child is criticizing their elderly parent for their physical incapability, not realizing they are moving in the same direction.  They don’t see their own erosion (represented by the wind and rain).  They don’t see where they’ve been, and they aren’t realizing where they are going.  They don’t realize they will be elderly someday, and therefore they don’t have compassion on someone who is elderly.

The mountain, representing the person in the third generation, has their focus somewhere else.  They don’t see the hill or the valley.  This shows that they are oblivious both to the treatment of their elderly relative, and of the reality that they will one day be in that position.  They don’t see the future implications for themselves.  They are concerned with other things.

It can sometimes occur in the care of the elderly, that the caregiver doesn’t see themselves in the one they care for.  They don’t see that they too will be in that position.  It can also be the case that younger generations are concerned about other things and don’t see the actions of caregivers or the condition of the elderly.  The poem is meant to highlight these things.

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Poem with an explanation: a whole new meaning

Words you can’t pronounce
take on a whole new meaning
when they’re inside of you
or someone you know.

 

This poem is about cancer.  Cancer is filled with all sorts of terms.  There are disease names, medicine names, names for things in blood tests, and more.  The terms are often about complex ideas and they can be hard to pronounce.

If a person doesn’t have cancer, or isn’t close to someone who has it, these terms don’t have much meaning.  A person not close to cancer might hear them in an ad for a medicine for example, and they don’t know what the terms mean and don’t pay much attention to them.

The experience though is different for a person with the disease or for someone close to them.  These obscure terms all of a sudden have a meaning and significance.  A measure of something in the blood or a medicine name have a whole new meaning when they’re personal.

The idea of this poem is to point out the idea of perspective; the idea that importance depends on situation.  This idea comes up at many instances in life.  How many times, for example, have you heard a news story about something unrelated to you?  What happened?  You may have forgotten about it right after you heard it.  If though, the story was personal to you, you may have listened intently and even acted on what you heard.  There is a difference based on situation.

This notion applies to so many things.  Debt, prison, disease, natural disasters, and a multitude of negative things, take on a whole new perspective when they are personal.  All of a sudden information about them matters.

This is an important idea for people.  Realizing it can help promote empathy.  Once you realize that something obscure to you can be important to someone else, you can better put yourself in their situation and can better understand how they feel.

Poem with an explanation: For the heart, for the mind

The glossy,
there on the carpet of red,
but in the pond,
something different.

Falling down,
with the glance,
and seeing looks,
that aren’t there.

In the fun house,
it isn’t so.

“The white coats,
might be the answer,”
so the voice,
does quietly say.

Hearing the sound,
of the eyes,
there’s nothing like a statue,
to be seen.

But a voice,
from so nearby,
says to see,
what’s really there.

It breaks the glass,
and blows the fog,
and shines a light,
on what is clear.

For the heart,
for the mind,
but for the world,
no more.

Steps and green,
steps and green,
a different white coat,
and different words.

For the heart,
for the mind,
for the one,
who’s beautiful.

 

This poem is about a woman struggling with her weight and body image.

In the first stanza of the poem, the woman compares images she sees to her own.  She sees beautiful women in magazines (The glossy) and she sees beautiful celebrities (there on the carpet of red), but in the mirror (but in the pond) she sees herself as looking different because of her weight (something different).

In the second stanza, the woman’s self-esteem falls as she looks in the mirror (Falling down, with the glance).  She has this feeling that people are looking at her physical flaws (and seeing looks) even though they aren’t (that aren’t there).

In the third stanza, the woman’s view of herself is distorted like the image in a fun house’s mirror.  She sees herself as looking worse than she really does (In the fun house, it isn’t so).

In the fourth stanza, the woman considers having weight reduction surgery (“The white coats, might be the answer,” so the voice, does quietly say. – the white coats representing doctors in lab coats).

In the fifth stanza, the woman feels that she is being judged by the looks of others (Hearing the sound, of the eyes).  She sees an image of perfection in her mind, like a Renaissance era statue, and sees herself as falling short of this ideal (there’s nothing like a statue, to be seen).

In the sixth stanza, something makes the woman reconsider her thoughts.  Somewhere in her life she has heard that value isn’t based on looks (But a voice, from so nearby, says to see, what’s really there).

In the seventh stanza, the woman considers this idea of self-worth.  The more she considers it, the more her view of herself changes.  She stops looking in the mirror (It breaks the glass) and she sees things more clearly (and blows the fog).  The more she considers it, the more she sees where her value really is (and shines a light, on what is clear).

In the eighth stanza, the woman sees her weight loss differently.  She feels that it is important for her health (For the heart), and for her wellbeing (for the mind), but realizes that she isn’t going to do it to satisfy what she believes society is telling her about weight (but for the world, no more.).

In the ninth stanza, the woman exercises and changes her diet (Steps and green).  She also sees a doctor (a different white coat), but for advice on improving her health and not for surgery to improve her looks (and different words.).

In the tenth stanza, the woman loses weight for her health (For the heart) and wellbeing (for the mind), and for herself (for the one), who she now realizes is beautiful (who’s beautiful.).

P. S. If you like poems with explanations, please take a look at Understanding: poems with explanations.

Poem with an explanation: silver clouds

one hundred and fifty
over ninety
quickly
the silver clouds form

This poem is about blood pressure.

The poem describes a situation of high blood pressure.  The blood pressure is one hundred and fifty over ninety.  This is related in the first two lines of the poem.

This reading causes the person who has it to worry.  Their worry is described as “silver clouds” in the poem.  The silver clouds forming quickly is a reference to a name for the element mercury: quicksilver.  Blood pressure can be measured in millimeters of mercury and this relates to that.

Poem with an explanation: Don’t ever go

Hello.

Is it play time?

Time for a walk?

Hey, what’s that?

What’s this thing?

Is this moving?

Where’s home?

Hello.

Hello.

This is bad.

This is bad.

What’s this place?

This doesn’t look good.

This is that place, isn’t it?

Noooooooooooo.

Why this place?

Why?

Was it the shoes?

The noise?

Something?

It’ll change.

It will.

Home is good.

Home.

Home.

Home.

Is it time to go?

No, that’s the wrong way!

This is bad.

This is bad.

Who’s that?

Ahhhhhh!

That was bad.

Who’s that?

What are they doing?

Ahhhhhh!

Ahhhhhh!

This is bad.

This is bad.

You’re not nice.

You’re not nice.

Is it time to go?

Leaving?

Yea!!!

Hurry.

Into the thing.

It’s moving.

It’s moving.

What’s that?

Home?

Home?

Home!!!

Home!!!

Yea!!!

Hello.

Hello.

It was horrible.

Horrible!

Don’t ever go.

Don’t ever go.

 

This poem follows the thoughts of a dog during a trip to the veterinarian.  The dog is simplistic in how he views things and sees things from an emotional level.  Things are either good or bad.

Although the poem is about a dog, it can be viewed as a metaphor for the human experience with medical care.  The human experience in medical care can be one of uncertainty, fear, and feeling that things are happening to you.  The dog’s experience reflects this.

The poem starts with the dog greeting his owner (Hello.)  The dog questions why his owner is there (Is it play time? Time for a walk?)

The dog has a harness put on and is taken to a car.  When he sees it, he doesn’t know what it is (Hey, what’s that?).  When he gets inside, he questions it further (What’s this thing?).

As the car starts to move, the dog questions what is happening (Is this moving?).  He wants to go back to where he was happy.  He wants to go back home.  He expresses this through a question (Where’s home?).

The dog feels a sense of abandonment from his owner.  He says Hello twice to his owner hoping to get some sort of comfort.  When he does not, he feels the negativity of his situation (This is bad.  This is bad.).

When they arrive at the vet, the dog questions where they are (What’s this place?).  The smell of the place fills the dog with foreboding (This doesn’t look good.)  The dog realizes where it is and questions it (This is that place, isn’t it?).  The realization fills the dog with despair (Noooooooooooo.)

The dog wonders if he is being punished (Why this place? Why?)  He questions if it is because he chewed shoes (Was it the shoes?), barked (The noise?), or anything else (Something?).

Fearing the place, and hoping for reprieve, the dog promises to change (It’ll change.  It will.)

The dog doesn’t like where he is.  He thinks of his happy place (Home is good.)  While he waits, he keeps thinking of it (Home.  Home.  Home.)

The dog and owner are then called into the examination room.  As his owner gets up, the dog think’s it is getting relief (Is it time to go?).  As the dog is lead further into the office, he realizes he isn’t going home (No, that’s the wrong way!)

When the dog goes in the office he is very scared (This is bad.  This is bad.  This is bad.)

The veterinary assistant comes in.  The dog question who it is (Who’s that?).  The assistant takes the dog’s temperature, which the dog does not like (Ahhhhhh!  That was bad.)

The veterinarian then comes in.  The dog again questions who it is (Who’s that?)  The vet then checks the dog over, which the dog doesn’t like (What are they doing?)

The vet then gives the dog two vaccinations.  Both fill the dog with pain (Ahhhhhh!  Ahhhhhh!).

The dog doesn’t like where he is (This is bad.  This is bad.)  He feels a sense of betrayal from his owner (You’re not nice.  You’re not nice.)

At this point, the dog’s owner gets up to leave with him (Is it time to go?).  The dog, in disbelief, questions if they are leaving (Leaving?)

When the dog realizes they are, he cheers (Yea!!!).  He wants his owner to hurry (Hurry.) and get into the car (Into the thing.)

As they drive away, the dog is filled with glee and it cheers (It’s moving.  It’s moving.)

As they go, the dog recognizes the area as familiar (What’s that?)  He thinks they are getting near home (Home?  Home?).  When he sees his home he cheers (Home!!! Home!!! Yea!!!).

When the dog arrives home, he greats another dog that lives with him (Hello.  Hello.)  He tells the dog of his experience (It was horrible.  Horrible!) and warns the dog to never go (Don’t ever go.  Don’t ever go.)

Poem with an explanation: so far away

1, 2, 3, 4

1

1, 2, 3, 4

1

 

1 minute later

10

 

Doing the math

moving faster

 

Doing the math

so far away

 

1, 2, 3, 4

1

1, 2, 3, 4

1

 

This poem is about exercise and weight loss.  In the poem, a person is moving on an elliptical machine.  They have decided that they want to burn five hundred calories in their workout.  They believe if they do this, they will lose weight.

The person starts to move and they count their steps as they look at the calorie counter on the machine.  They count four steps (1, 2, 3, 4) and notice the counter go up one (1).  They count another four steps (1, 2, 3, 4) and see the counter go up again.

They watch a clock for a minute (1 minute later) and see the counter is at ten (10).

They do the math in their mind (Doing the math).  If one minute burns ten calories, then fifty minutes would burn five hundred calories.  They realize how long a time fifty minutes is and realize they need to move faster (moving faster).

As they move, they do the math again.  They have heard, although aren’t certain, that to burn one pound of fat they need to burn three thousand five hundred calories.  They do the math in their mind to figure out how many days they will need to run on the elliptical (Doing the math), and realize they have a long road ahead of them (so far away).

As they move they decide to just keep moving.  They count their steps (1, 2, 3, 4) and see the counter go up one (1).  They count again (1, 2, 3, 4) and see it go up again.

The poem has some form.  Stanzas 1 and 5 are the same.  The first lines of stanzas 3 and 4 are the same.  Every line that starts with a number starts with the number 1 (the number 10 starts with the number 1).

Poem with an explanation: building castles

building castles
not knowing
they are made of sand

 

This poem is about doing something without the realization that it will be undone.  This idea could apply to many situations.  As an example, imagine someone starts a business.  They spend a great deal of effort setting it up.  They make it exactly how they want.  In a year though, the business the fails.  The person thought they were building something that would last.  Instead, they built something that disappeared.

This particular poem was based off of the idea of weight loss.  Sometimes when a person loses weight, they keep it off for a while, but they gain it back.  When the person lost the weight they thought it was permanent.  Instead, things went back to the way they were.  This idea was represented symbolically by the idea of person building what they thought was a stone castle, but it turned out to be a sand castle.  A sand castle is a temporary structure that will quickly disappear.

The idea of the poem is to contrast the idea of perceived permanence, with the reality of temporariness.

Poem with an explanation: They all said the same

They all said the same,
“Stand bright and tall,
and as you do,
the birds will call.”

So hearing the words,
the squirrel did try,
it flapped its arms,
and tried to fly.

And looking to,
the trees so tall,
the squirrel did listen,
for the sparrows’ call.

But songs of joy,
it did not hear,
it was something else,
much like a jeer.

The sparrows sang out,
but the squirrel they did mock,
and there the squirrel stood,
so filled with shock.

The sparrows did laugh,
and jokes they did tell,
they poked at the squirrel,
and its countenance fell.

They said it was silly,
why did it try,
it was a squirrel,
and would never fly.

And the squirrel ran off,
and hid in the trees,
it started to cry,
and fell to its knees.

It then look at those,
who all said the same,
and asked them why,
but did not blame.

And they all stood,
with no words to say,
they thought they were right,
before that day.

And in the quiet,
the squirrel had a thought,
it would not try,
no matter what they taught.

 

This poem takes a look at a potential negative outcome that can come from well-meaning social advice.

In society, there is the well-meaning social advice that a person should put themselves out there.  That if a person wants to do something different, that they should and that their peers will support them.  This poem looks at a situation in which the positive outcome purported by the advice, does not come true.

In the poem, a squirrel wants to try to fly.  It encounters other animals in the first stanza that tell it, it should try this.  They say that if it does, that the birds who see, will support it.

In the second stanza, the squirrel goes into a clearing in the trees, stands in the middle, and tries to fly.

In the third stanza, the squirrel looks to the trees expecting to hear the birds cheer for it.

In the fourth stanza, the squirrel hears the birds, but instead of cheering the squirrel, they are making fun of it.

In the fifth stanza, the sparrows mock the squirrel’s attempt at flight and the squirrel is surprised by this.

In the sixth stanza, the sparrows laugh at the squirrel, tell jokes at its expense and poke fun at it.  This saddens the squirrel.

In the seventh stanza, the sparrows say the squirrel was silly, and that it would never fly.

In the eighth stanza, the squirrel is very embarrassed and sad.  It runs away, hides, and cries.

In the ninth stanza, the squirrel encounters the animals who gave it the advice.  It asks them why this happened, but does not blame them.

In the tenth stanza, the other animals are speechless.  They thought their advice was good; they thought it was well meaning.

In the eleventh stanza, the squirrel decides that it will no longer put itself out there in social situations.

The idea of this poem is to take a look at what sometimes can be a harsh reality.  Sometimes, when a person does something different, instead of encountering praise from their peers, they encounter ridicule.

Of course the ridicule is wrong, and the poem does not mean to imply that a person should not ever put themselves out there and do something different.  It rather, examines a situation, where this does not work out.  It examines a situation in which the positive view of the advice, does not match the negative reality that was encountered.

An example situation in life might be a person who wants to sew their own sweater.  They talk to some people about this who say it is a great idea and that their friends will support what they do.  The person takes the advice and sews the sweater.  When they wear it in front of their friends though, instead of their friends applauding what they did, they make fun of it.  They make fun of the appearance of the sweater, of the mistakes made in sewing it, and of the person making their own clothes.  The idealized outcome of the advice, did not match the reality the person encountered.

Poem with an explanation: Judgement

A penny taken.

“Into the cage!”
“Into the cage!”

A dollar in the pocket.

“No, it’s not the same.”
“It’s not the same.”

 

This poem is about judgment.  In the poem there are three people.

The first person is in the first stanza.  This person stole something small in value.  Symbolically, this refers to the idea that the person committed a small wrong.

The second person appears in the second stanza.  This person is judgmental.  They see the transgression of the first person and condemn them.  They want them punished severely.

The third person appears in the third and fourth stanzas.  This person points out that the second person is guilty of greater transgressions than the first person.  In the poem, the first person stole a penny.  The second person stole a dollar.  This symbolizes that the second person has done much worse, although it is hidden (in the pocket), than the first person.

The second person speaks to the third person in the fourth stanza.  They can’t see the connection.  They can’t see how what they did is wrong.  They can’t see how their condemnation of the first person, is a condemnation of themselves.  They think the first person should be judged harshly, but don’t see how they themselves should be.

Poem with an explanation: emptiness grows

emptiness grows,
and unlike the supposed living,
there is no relief,
with time

the flock flies above,
looking toward horizons,
while there beneath the stone,
the bear lies

nuts and berries,
are absent the hands,
the smell of roast turkey,
fills the air

under the stone,
the night falls,
as the emptiness grows,
in silence

 

This poem is about hunger.  In the poem there is a homeless person who has not eaten for days.

In the first stanza, the person’s hunger grows (emptiness grows).  This ailment, unlike something caused by a virus, does not heal with time (and unlike the supposed living (a virus may or may not be living), there is no relief, with time).

The homeless person is outside beside a building.  People move about around him (the flock flies above).  The people are focused on their lives (looking toward horizons) and don’t notice the man.  It is as if he is hidden (while there beneath the stone, the bear lies).

The man wants for simplicity.  There is this idea, that a person lost in the wilderness, will gather the simplest foods: nuts and berries.  This level of food is what the man desires, but he does not have it (are absent the hands).  About him though, people have an abundance of luxurious food (the smell of roast turkey, fills the air).

The man is metaphorically hidden and covered (under the stone).  In his hunger, he passes away (the night falls).  The stone also symbolizes a tomb.  His death has left an emptiness in the world (as the emptiness grows) but it is not noticed (in silence).

 

The above was a poem with an explanation.  The idea is to help readers learn about poetry through the explanation given.  Readers can learn about symbolism and metaphor by reading how they were applied in a particular situation.

If you like poems with explanations, please consider purchasing a copy of Understanding: poems with explanations.  It is an eBook that contains twenty poems with explanations.  It is available for $0.99 plus tax where applicable.

Understanding: poems with explanations by M. Sakran