Yes, Thoughtful Thursday comes on Saturday this week. It is Parent’s Weekend at the college of our youngest son, and we have been spending the last few days strolling the campus and enjoying our time with him. Only fitting then that poems for this Thoughtful Thursday are about parenting, from James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938), Carolyn Rodgers (1940-2010), and June Jordan
A Poet to His Baby Son
Tiny bit of humanity,
Blessed with your mother’s face,
And cursed with your father’s mind.
I say cursed with your father’s mind,
Because you can lie so long and so quietly on your back,
Playing with the dimpled big toe of your left foot,
And looking away,
Through the ceiling of the room, and beyond.
Can it be that already you are thinking of being a poet?
Why don’t you kick and howl,
And make the neighbors talk about
“That damned baby next door,”
And make up your mind forthwith
To grow up and be a banker
Or a politician or some other sort of go-getter
Or—?—whatever you decide upon,
Rid yourself of these incipient thoughts
About being a poet.
For poets no longer are makers of songs,
Chanters of the gold and purple harvest,
Sayers of the glories of earth and sky,
Of the sweet pain of love
And the keen joy of living;
No longer dreamers of the essential dreams,
And interpreters of the eternal truth,
Through the eternal beauty.
Poets these days are unfortunate fellows.
Baffled in trying to say old things in a new way
Or new things in an old language,
They talk abracadabra
In an unknown tongue,
Each one fashioning for himself
A wordy world of shadow problems,
And as a self-imagined Atlas,
Struggling under it with puny legs and arms,
Groaning out incoherent complaints at his load.
My son, this is no time nor place for a poet;
Grow up and join the big, busy crowd
That scrambles for what it thinks it wants
Out of this old world which is—as it is—
And, probably, always will be.
Take the advice of a father who knows:
You cannot begin too young
Not to be a poet.
James Weldon Johnson
in the august of your life
you come barefoot to me
the blisters of events
having worn through to the
soles of your shoes.
it is not the time
this is not the time
there is no such time
to tell you
that some pains ease away
on the ebb & toll of
there is no such dream that
can not fail, nor is hope our
we can stand boldly in burdening places (like earth here)
in our blunderings, our bloomings
our palms, flattened upward or pressed,
an unyielding dow
Carolyn M. Rodgers
July 4, 1974
At least it helps me to think about my son
a Leo/born to us
(Aries and Cancer) some
sixteen years ago
in St. John’s Hospital next to the Long Island
do not really prepare you
and running through the darkness with his own