Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What I Want to Tell My Son When He's a Little Older


Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter's age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she's a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat --
the one you never really liked -- will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours for a month.
Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you'll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn't plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you'll come home to find your son has emptied
your refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up -- drug money.
There's a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there's also a tiger below.
And two mice -- one white, one black -- scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here's the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you'll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You'll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Ellen Bass


  1. That's about the best poem I've ever read.
    Golly. Thanks.

  2. Oh my god. This is balm to my soul. I needed this so badly. The part about the daughter plugging her heart into every live socket she passes made me gasp. That is what I do to my parents, I think. And what my girls will do to me.

  3. This poem is SO good, thank you thank you for sharing it.

  4. I think every parent needs to give that to their children.

  5. You might be my new favorite poet.

    Thanks, babe.

  6. Terrific. Thanks for another introduction to a great poem and a new (for me) poet.

  7. This is a great posting I have read. I like your article. Thank you

  8. I love this poem. I have raised two children, one with a disability and I sometimes need the reminder to treasure a moment and not let the "big picture" get to me. Thank you for posting.

  9. Elizabeth, I love this. There's almost nothing better than truth in the morning. Except maybe the sunrise.

  10. fantastic poem - it's all in there. When I lived in Santa Cruz, Ellen was a friend, and I took writing workshops with her. She is brilliant!

    Thanks for tucking this poem in today - a good reminder of all that life has to offer.

  11. Eliz, I just read your hilarious, heartbreaking, beautiful poem. why can't we pay to see you in spoken word series? Thank you for sharing it.

  12. Shannon, that's not MY poem! Ellen Bass, a great poet, wrote it --



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