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Parenting via Frank O'Hara

Posted Apr 25 2012 12:43pm


When I visited City Lights bookstore last weekend in San Francisco, I wandered through the poetry section in near rapture, up the stairs in the ether and gathered a few books to flip through, those I knew and those I had never heard of, thinking how poetry endures, the toil of it, despite. Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems is a small book to revel in, and this poem one of my favorites
Ave Maria


Mothers of America


                               let your kids go to the movies!


get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to


it's true that fresh air is good for the boy


                                                                but what about the soul


that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images


and when you grow old as grow old you must
                                                                         they won't hate you


they won't criticize you they won't know


                                      they'll be in some glamorous country


they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey


they may even be grateful to you


                                                      for their first sexual experience


which only cost you a quarter


                                            and didn't upset the peaceful home


they will know where candy bars come from
                 
                                                     and gratuitous bags of popcorn


as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over


with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the 
                                                                       Heaven on Earth Bldg


near the Williamsburg Bridge
                                oh mothers you will have made the little tykes


so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies


they won't know the difference
                                       and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy


and they'll have been truly entertained either way


instead of hanging around the yard


                                                         or up in their room
                                                                                        hating you


prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly
                                                                                         mean yet


except keeping them from the darker joys
                                                               it's unforgivable the latter


so don't blame me if you won't take this advice


                                                                 and the family breaks up


and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set


                                                                                             seeing


movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young


Frank O'Hara, 1960
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