(taut jeans dancing)

An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
Table Of Contents
Acknowledgments & Links


      Maybe the first poems were written about boys and girls--their discovering each other, and what happened after that. The first time a girl and a boy are alone together may be remembered clearly or blessedly forgotten. If you remember that first time, whether by accident or by plan, you and another were alone together, make a poem about it.

      It is often at play, and maybe after dark, that first time that we feel close to somebody. And it is often somebody who will leave our lives and we will never see again.


Anne Le Dressay

In the old days when we were kids
and summer evenings gathered us
all together to play hide-and seek
until it was too dark to see,
we used to hide together, Roger and me,
in the high sweet grass along the ditch
or under the bushes at the edge of the woods,

his arm warm against mine,
hearts beating madly against the earth
as we watched for that chance
to run home free, Roger and me.

It seems strange to think of childhood,
to look back across the years
and recognize that child, myself--
like looking back across a border
to a land I can never touch again
and did not recognize when I was there.

And Roger, he's gone.
He left me behind before he left his childhood,
and I sometimes wonder where he is,
who he has become, whether life has
treated him better than his childhood did,
who joined us bruised but laughing;
he was always laughing, does he still laugh?

I remember the sweet dry grass,
and earth-smell strong in my nostrils
as we huddled against it, waiting.
I remember the darkening evening
alive with our games,
the shouting and running and laughing,
and Roger's arm warm against mine
in those sweet gone evenings
when we used to hide together,
Roger and me,
waiting for the chance to run
home free.

      Write a poem about a child who you don't know any more, who you used to play with. Begin with a list of details of things you did and saw and smelled and felt.

      But an encounter can simply end in rejection.


A. E. Housman

Oh see how thick the goldcup flowers
Are lying in field and lane,
With dandelions to tell the hours
That never are told again.
Oh may I squire you round the meads
And pick you posies gay?
--'Twill do no harm to take my arm.
"You may, young man, you may."

Ah, spring was sent for lass and lad,
'Tis now the blood runs gold,
And man and maid had best be glad
Before the world is old.
What flowers to-day may flower tomorrow,
But never as good as new.
--Suppose I wound my arm right round--
"'Tis true, young man, 'tis true."

Some lads, there are, 'tis shame to say,
That only court to thieve,
And once they bear the bloom away
'Tis little enough they leave.
Then keep your heart for men like me
And safe from trustless chaps.
My love is true and all for you.
"Perhaps, young man, perhaps."

Oh, look in my eyes then, can you doubt?
--Why, 'tis a mile from town.
How green the grass is all about!
We might as well sit down.
--Ah, life, what is it but a flower?
Why must true lovers sigh?
Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty,--
"Good-bye, young man, good-bye."

      Write a poem in dialog in which a girl rejects a boy, or-- make it more general--in which one person discovers that he or she really doesn't want to go on with the conversation. Put the poem into stanzas so that the person who talks too much has most of the stanza, but the person who is getting the message has the bottom line.

      Sometimes it takes longer to learn that a rejection is necessary:


Nikki Giovanni

i always liked housecleaning
even as a child
i dug straightening
the cabinets
putting new paper on
the shelves
washing the refrigerator
inside out
and unfortunately this habit has
carried over and i find
i must remove you
from my life

      Write a note telling somebody to be on his way. Tell something about yourself that declares your independence and shows that you don't need him, or her.

      Just when things are really happening in town, the girl, or boy, you want to do all those things with has to go somewhere with his or her family, maybe on vacation, maybe someplace else, but, definitely, a place where nothing is happening. Write a letter to her or him. Be sympathetic about how boring things are there, and try to be convincing that, since you are alone (?), things are really boring for you too.


On her leaving the Town after the Coronation°

Alexander Pope

As some fond virgin, whom her mother's care
Drags from the town to wholsom country air,
Just when she learns to roll a melting eye,
And hear a spark,° yet think no danger nigh:
From the dear man unwilling she must sever,
Yet takes one kiss before she parts for ever.
Thus from the world fair Zephalinda °flew,
Saw others happy, and with sighs withdrew;
Not that their pleasures caus'd her discontent,
She sign'd not that They stay'd, but that She went.
    She went, to plain-work and to purling brooks,
Old-fashion'd halls, dull aunts, and croaking rooks,
She went from Op'ra, park, assembly, play,
To morning walks, and pray'rs three hours a day:
To part her time 'twixt reading and Bohea,°
To muse, and spill her solitary Tea,
Or o'er cold coffee trifle with the spoon,
Count the slow clock, and dine exact at noon;
Divert her eyes with pictures in the fire,
Hum half a tune, tell stories to the squire;°
Up to her godly garret after sev'n,
These starve and pray, for that's the way to heav'n. 
    Some Squire, perhaps, you take delight to rack;
Whose game is Whisk,° whose treat a toast in sack,°
Who visits with a gun, presents you birds,
Then gives a smacking buss,° and cries--No words!
Or with his hound comes hallowing from the stable,
Makes love° with nods, and knees beneath a table;
Whose laughs are hearty, tho' his jests are coarse,
And loves you best of all things--but his horse.
    In some fair evening, on your elbow laid,
You dream of triumphs in the rural shade;
In pensive thought recall the fancy'd scene,
See Coronations rise on ev'ry green,
Before you pass th' imaginary sights
Of Lords, and Earls, and Dukes, and garter'd Knights;
While the  spread Fan o'ershades your closing eyes;
Then give one flirt, and all the vision flies.
Thus vanish sceptres, coronets, and balls,
And leave you in lone woods, or empty walls.
    So when your slave,° at some dear, idle time,
(Not plagu'd with headachs,° or the want of rhime)
Stands in the streets, abstracted from the crew,
And while he seems to study, thinks of you:
Just when his fancy points your sprightly eyes,
Or sees the blush of Parthenissa rise,°
Gay °pats my shoulder, and you vanish quite;
Streets, chairs,° and coxcombs,° rush upon my sight;
Vext to be still in town, I knit my brow,
Look sow'r, and hum a song--as you may now.

°To a Young Lady :  The poem was written for Teresa Blount, the sister of
Alexander Pope's close friend, Martha Blount.
°Coronation:  In England of the seventeen hundreds the coronation of a new
 king or queen was an excuse for lots of parties.  The coronation referred to
here was that of George I in 1714.
°Spark:  The crack of burning wood in a fire and  a young man on the prowl.
°Zephalinda:  A fancy-sounding name Teresa Blount had adopted for herself.
°Bohea:  Expensive tea.
°Squire:  The owner of the farm.  Squires mentioned later are from neighboring farms.
°Whisk: Whist, a card game for four people with a deck of fifty-two cards.  Whisk is 
possibly a country (small town) pronunciation. (Very boring stuff.)
Sack: Sherry wine.  Obviously not a city wine.
°Buss: Kiss.
°Makes Love: Comes on.
°Slave: The poet.
°Headachs:  Pope suffered from migraine headaches.
°Parthenissa:  Martha Blount
°Gay:  John Gay, poet and playwright, friend of  Alexander Pope,  
best known for his comic musical The Beggar's Opera which suggests that the
morals of the criminal class are no worse (nor no better) than the morals of
the wealthy class.
°Chairs:  Sedan chairs.
°Coxcombs: Fools, jerks.

      Messages from boy to girl can be put in a letter, or they can be put in a more permanent form.


David Wojahn

He has three singles on the charts and in
Six weeks will be dead,
			       the Piper Cub that also kills

Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and almost Dion,
Skidding to pieces in an Iowa field.

Easy to imagine premonitions--
That he wakes in night-sweats from dreams of falling--
But no.
	   Harder to say he's seventeen
And buys, with cash, a house in West L.A.,

Where he's sprawled tonight, sculpting in his bedroom
A gift for his new wife,  His left hand turns

The knife in circles on his right.  Where thumb
And index finger meet, he cuts and squirms,

Replacing blood with ink.  Cotton stops the flow.
She'll wake to heart shape,
				   circling TE AMO.

      And rejection? That happens too.


William Shakespeare

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
    Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
    To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into Hey nonny nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no moe
    Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
    Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into Hey nonny nonny.


Sir John Suckling

Why so pale and wan, fond lover?
     Prithee, why so pale?
Will, when looking well can't move her,
     Looking ill prevail?
     Prithee, why so pale?

Why so dull and mute, young sinner?
     Prithee, why so mute?
Will, when speaking well can't win her,
     Saying nothing do 't?
     Prithee, why so mute?

Quit, quit, for shame; this will not move,
     This cannot take her.
If of herself she will not love,
     Nothing can make her:
     The devil take her!

      Write a song (or short note) to a friend telling her (or him) to give it up. Try hard to make it convincing, even though it may not be possible to convince people in love.


Matthew Prior

No, no; for my virginity,
When I lose that, says Rose,  I'll die:
Behind the elms, last night, cried Dick,
Rose, were you not extremely sick?

      But we can't end this section with that poem, it gives the impression that all boys are insensitive louts who mention things like that.


James McBride Dabbs

This morning I met Miriam with a tall boy walking
Hand in happy hand, and I said "How-do-you-do?"
But she only looked at me, with lips pressed together,
And her eyes were shining as if she hardly knew.

I think she had forgotten the old frank greeting,
For she passed me by in silence as if she hadn't heard.
She was moving softly to love's remembered music,
And she was terribly afraid to risk a single word.

For she was treading carefully the battlements of heaven,
And they seemed very narrow and slipped sheer away,
And she was rather giddy, and could only smile primly
At me so far below her in the light of earthly day.

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