Monday, 22 May 2006
In a small moment of synchronicity, a few days back we were exchanging poems about children growing up. And the next day, Terry Gross interviewed Billy Collins, who talked about the collection Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work, 1888-2006. During the interview, they mentioned poems that talk about parents.
So here's a small collection of poems about parents and children.
A Little Tooth
Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all
over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,
your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.
-- Thomas Lux
Eighteen and Adieu
She’s straddling the cusp.
Likes to linger over things.
Some days a dizziness that neither speaks nor replies
is lured by the aroma of Chinese roses,
still water & a small white candle.
She’s the flutter of a single confetti
trailing in a tumult, a gala,
like the ships in great grandma’s day embarking.
Bellow of their horn fattening
the air, gliding imperceptibly
into new reality. Embryonic awkward
swelling between shore and vessel.
We wave we smile we sigh, ambivalent
as we hear in the distance
she’s still got her giggle.
-- Carol Levin
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
-- Robert Hayden
The LanyardUpdate Well, this is interesting ... I just remembered that it's my mom's birthday; she would have been 81 today.
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past --
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
-- Billy Collins