ADVICE TO THE YOUNG
To be young is to get a good deal of advice, some of it useful, most of it not. Poets too are not immune from this urge to give advice to the young. It is an urge that probably even you have had when you saw small children doing something you could warn them about.
PREFACE TO LEAVES OF GRASS
This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others,
Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people.
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young, and with the mothers or families.
Re-examine all you have been told
in school or church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem…
And have the richest fluency, not only in its words,
But in the silent lines of its lips and face,
And between the lashes of your eyes,
and In every motion and joint of your body.
I CANNOT REMEMBER ALL THE TIMES...
I cannot remember all the times he hit me.
I might could count black eyes,
how many times I said I ran into doors
or fell down or stepped into the path
of any flying object except his fist.
Once I got a black eye playing softball.
The rest were him. Seven, eight.
I can name what of me he broke:
my nose, my arm, and four ribs
in the course of six years' marriage.
The ribs were after I said divorce
and in spite of a peace bond.
I spent the night in the hospital.
He did not even spend a night in jail.
The sheriff I helped elect does not
apply the law to family business.
He always swore he never meant to do it.
I do believe he never planned.
It was always just the day,
the way I looked at him afraid.
Maybe the first time he did not mean to do it,
maybe the broken ribs were for good luck.
I want to post this in ladies rooms,
write it on the tags of women's underwear,
write it on coupons to go in Tampax packages
because my ex-husband will want to marry again
and there is no tattoo where he can't see it
to tell the next woman who might fall in love with him.
After six months, maybe a year,
he will start with a slap you can brush off.
Leave when he slaps you.
When he begins to call you cunt and whore
and threatens to kill you if you try to go
it will almost be like teasing but it is not.
Keep two sets of car keys for yourself.
Take your children with you when you go.
If he is throwing things, he is drinking.
If he is drunk enough he cannot catch you.
A punch in the breast hurts worse than a punch in the jaw.
A hit with an object does more damage than a hit with a fist
unless he is so drunk he picks up a broom instead of a poker.
If you pick up the poker, he will try to get it.
If he gets it, he will hit you with it.
He probably will not kill you because you will pass out
and then, he is all the sudden sorry and he stops.
When he says he will not hit you again
as he drives you to the hospital,
both of you in tears and you in pain,
you have stayed much too long already.
Tell the people at the hospital the truth
no matter how much you think you love him.
Do not say you fell down stairs
no matter how much he swears he loves you.
He does love you, he loves you hurt
and he will hit you again.
Pick a time when you were treated badly, though you got into the situation innocently and were not to blame. Write a poem which gives advice about what to do in such a situation.
ANY MAN'S ADVICE TO HIS SON
If you have lost the radio beam, then guide yourself by the sun or the stars.
(By the North Star at night, and in daytime by the compass and the sun.)
Should the sky be overcast and there are neither stars nor a sun, then steer by dead reckoning.
If the wind and direction and speed are not known, then trust to your wits and your luck.
Do you follow me? Do you understand? Or is this too difficult to learn?
But you must and you will, it is important that you do,
Because there may be troubles even greater than these that I have said.
Because, remember this: Trust no man fully.
Remember: If you must shoot at another man squeeze, do not jerk the trigger.
Otherwise you may miss and die, yourself, at the hand of some other man's son.
And remember: In all this world there is nothing so easily squandered, or once gone,
so completely lost as life.
I tell you this because I remember you when you were small,
And because I remember all your monstrous infant boasts and lies,
And the way you smiled, and how you ran and climbed, as no one else quite did, and how you fell and were bruised,
And because there is no other person, anywhere on earth, who remembers these things as clearly as I do now.
THE OLD MAN SAID: ONE
Some will tell
you it doesn't
matter. That is
a lie. Everything,
every single thing
SPRING AND FALL
to a young child
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's springs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Write a poem explaining something to a small child who is upset and crying.
TO HIS SON
Sir Walter Ralegh
Three things there be that prosper all apace,
And flourish while they are asunder far;
But on a day they meet all in a place,
And when they meet they one another mar.
And they be these--the wood, the weed, the wag:
The wood is that that makes the gallows tree;
The weed that that strings the hangman's bag;
The wag, my pretty knave, betokens thee.
Now mark, dear boy, while these assemble not,
Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the wag is wild;
But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,
It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.
God bless the child.