Life in the Rear-view Mirror

Rembrandt Pearl


I wrote the following two poems at WSU during the autumn semester of ’22 for my College Writing I class. It was one of the first weeks of the semester. My professor, the creative and fascinating Andrea Martin, had devised the following prompt for an early class assignment:

“Write two stories from the perspective of yourself at an old age looking back at your life; one where you’re happy with your life and the choices you’ve made, and one where you look back with disappointment and regret.”

I began to write, but something about the prompt, my mood at the time, or both made poetry seem like the only viable medium for the two stories. And so, I successfully did what I’ve tried many times before and since to do, never with any success: I wrote two complete poems.

It just goes to show that we all have a creative spark within us; we have only to be patient with ourselves and be ready for whenever the spark may ignite, lest we miss an opportunity to create something beautiful. Never tell yourself you’re not creative!

With that said, I hope you enjoy my poems.

Things That Might Have Been

This deathbed

Not a bed of rock or a bed of snow

Not what I’d hoped

But a bed

An ordinary bed

Surrounded by loved ones and those I’ve known

I see the sorrow in their faces, yet relief I see, as well

I can feel it too

Not relief from pain; no, I’m more or less content

But relief from the burden of being a burden

From being cumbersome; a chore

I’ve made too many mistakes, too often, too young

Too reckless in my junior years

And look where it’s led me

An outcast, a fugitive, a cripple

I never climbed the highest mountains; just stumbled on the foothills

Never sailed the vastest seas, but nearly drowned at shore

I never did do something great, for when I tried, I failed

But a failure of my own doing it was

The reasons for my faults are twofold; never an aim and not enough care

Had I taken the time to focus, taken the time to prepare

I never would have been here

But alas, here is me

So many things I could have done

So many people I could have met

So many sights I could have seen

Anything I could have been

This I’ve always known

But for every place I could have wandered

An opportunity did I squander

Before it had even been

So, this is how the story ends, the story of my life

Not so much a story of what is, but of things that might have been

Reflections in a Snow-covered Hill, or, The Years Lost to Time

As I lay in this den

In this lightless, lifeless grave

Hoping, wishing to hear a voice

Any voice, or a sound

Other than the violent whipping of the wind above

Any sign of life which may have come for mine

A rescue party perhaps, or a wolf or a bear

Come to make my departure easier to bear

As I lay in this grave, knowing that no one will come

As no rescue party had been called, and I’m higher than any wolf or bear would dare

Part of me knows it’s for the best

After all, how much longer shall I go on?

Another day, perhaps

Or a week, or a month, or a year

Would I really risk a rescue party’s lives for that?

Besides, I’ve lived a life of wonder

Full of peace and love and joy

I’ve lived what feels like lifetimes in the length of almost two

I’ve lived my hopes and dreams; each one better than I’d wanted

And my fears; not as awful as I’d thought

For six-score and fifteen years I’ve roamed this Earth

Many on two wheels

Meeting every stripe of man and woman

Those who fall between

Seeing many a culture this world’s to offer, and some that since died out

And in my final years

When no longer could I ride

No longer could I cook or work or run or swim or hide

By some miracle, I climb

Ah, how the memories come rushing back

Of the years lost to time

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