Knowing Now What We Knew Then

I’ve written exactly two poems in my life, the first in 1973 when I was 20 years old. I know this because I came across it the other day in a manilla envelope with old photos and letters. It was fascinating to look back at what my twenty-year-old self already knew, and while it is clear to me why I haven’t, and never will, make my living as a poet, it is startlingly clear that even back then I had an inner developing wisdom about things I now know for sure.

The words of this young woman were often an inconvenient truth, as I stumbled in and out of love, but in the long run, it is a truth that has served me well.  What did you know when you were twenty that you now know for sure?

Pain and love go hand in hand

one often leading the other.

But the led need not struggle against the leader,

for they both travel to the same place;

They go to the clear, bittersweet pool

of human experience, where each

may drink freely and deeply of one cup.

The water is such that all who look in it

Can see themselves perfectly.

When two people gaze into its depths

They see themselves as they truly are.

Having once gazed into such a pool

One will never again desire to look into the cloudy, shallow pools of comfort,

which do not reflect, but merely swallow the reflection.

When you seek love, look also for pain, and welcome it,

That you too may drink deeply.

Molly Davis, December 6, 1973