In The Park

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt
Someone she loved once passed by – too late

to feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon…”but for the grace of God…”

They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive, ”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

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Hnnhbiie30's picture

Gwen Harwood's poem "In The Park" provides readers with a heartfelt and reflective insight into the life of a mother struggling with the challenges and sacrifices of motherhood. Through the use of vivid imagery and emotive language, Harwood encourages readers to contemplate the intricacies of love, loss, and the passing of time.

The poem begins with a bleak depiction of a mother sitting alone in the park, wearing outdated clothes, and surrounded by her children who are whining, bickering, and tugging at her skirt. This imagery sets the tone for the rest of the poem, conveying a sense of isolation and exhaustion in the face of the demands of motherhood.

As the mother reminisces about her past, Harwood skillfully captures her inner turmoil and yearning for a life that could have been. The loss of a loved one serves as a poignant reminder of missed opportunities and the fleeting nature of time. The mother's attempt to "feign indifference" towards this encounter underscores her desire to maintain a facade of composure, despite the pain and regret she feels.

Through the mother's interaction with the passerby, Harwood explores the themes of regret and resignation, as well as the temporary nature of human connections. The small balloon that rises from the man's head symbolizes the fleeting moments of joy and hope that can be easily punctured by the harsh realities of life. The contrast between the mother's internal struggles and the passerby's casual demeanor highlights the stark contrast between her inner turmoil and the outside world's indifference.

As the poem progresses, Harwood delves deeper into the mother's inner thoughts and emotions, revealing her sense of resignation and defeat in the face of overwhelming responsibilities. The mother's bittersweet acknowledgment of the sweetness of her children's chatter is tempered by her realization that they have "eaten me alive," which metaphorically represents how they have consumed her identity and aspirations.

In conclusion, "In The Park" by Gwen Harwood is a powerful and evocative exploration of motherhood, regret, and the passing of time. Through vivid imagery and poignant language, Harwood invites readers to empathize with the mother's inner struggles and reflect on the complexities of love and sacrifice. This timeless poem resonates with readers of all ages, offering a poignant reminder of the enduring challenges and rewards of parenthood.

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