Poetry Diary 2: Poems in which parents lie to their kids


I lie to my child more than I’d like–telling him everything will be ok, for ex, that we’ll always protect him, etc.  Today I picked up Garrisson Keillor’s book Good Poems for Hard Times and came across two poems about parents lying  to their children.

The first, Fleur Adcock’s “For a Five-Year-Old,” is about a mother lying about her own inner nature to her child.  It begins

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:

Read rest of poem at The Writer’s Almanac. 

The other is David Ignatow’s “For My Daughter in Reply to a Question.” It’s full of lies, which is apparent from the first few lines of the piece:

We’re not going to die.
We’ll find a way.
We’ll breathe deeply
and eat carefully.

Read rest of poem at The Writer’s Almanac.

These two remind me of “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith, one of the poems that went viral after the recent massacre in Orlando:


Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

estimate, though I keep this from my children.

Read rest of poem at Waxwing Literary Journal. 

Katy Waldman has a short interview with Smith about this poem up at Slate, which is where I first found out about it.  For a few days after reading it I couldn’t get the refrain of it out of my head, and I thought of it esp. when I was thinking of the shootings at the same time my kid was in an unrelated sad mood & I was holding him as he cried about not wanting to grow up.  At least the poem ends on a relatively good note.

2 thoughts on “Poetry Diary 2: Poems in which parents lie to their kids

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  1. Terrific last couple of weeks of posting. I especially liked the Gwen Brooks poem. And the tribute to
    your old professor was a splendid thing to do. For “Kindergarten Poems” you might go to songs, like “School Days. School Days. Good old Golden Rule Days” and such.

    1. Thanks for the compliment! Good suggestion re: songs, though I’m looking more for poems about the constant happy/sadness of one’s kid growing up…found a couple yesterday! Will post more on that soon….Cheers!

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