Molly Peacock: “Our Room” (p. 151)
In this poem Peacock writes about her alcoholic father from the perspective of the mature adult looking back on the child she was when she “was in grade 5" (line 9). She was obviously ashamed of her father, but she explains how she overcame her shame.
Shame involves a feeling that one is morally less than others. That is why shame often brings with it the overpowering need to confess, to bring to light the dark secret and thereby, perhaps, resolve the tension it creates. She apparently did so because she was an extraordinary, emotionally precocious child. This is why the fifth-grader submits to the inevitable taunts and ridicule and embarrassment when she quietly sorts out the “junk / of [her] childhood for them” (lines 11-12), subduing the children into serious questions. The poem ends with a quiet but remarkable triumph: her actions not only quiet the other children but cause them to disclose “what / happened to them, too” (lines 14-15). The aching, frightened child at the outset of the poem, who faced her classmates across an emotional abyss, has remarkably brought them all together. In the final line, “I” and “they” give way to “we” and “our” as they all recognize that the speaker’s pain and shame is a version of their own, and “our room” becomes a metaphor.