May 13 — your child growing up

Friday, May 13 “Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy”

Which is more challenging? to notice beauty, delicate, stirring wonder . . .  and then to go to the beauty . . . and then to stand still in the beauty?
or it is more challenging? to notice grief, wrenching, . . .  and then to go to the grief . . . and then to stand still in the grief?
or more challenging? to notice fear, . . .  and then  to go to the fear . . . and then to stand still in the fear?
or more challenging? to notice joy, that wants to open me deep down . . .  and then to go to the joy . . . and then to stand still in the joy?

Strong poems raise these kinds of questions, re-open us into our capacity for depth and inner attention.  I think that is why we read poems, are happy when we’ve taken time to give a poem access to our inner selves.  I think that is why people write poems too.   Perhaps like today’s poet, Richard Wilbur, standing as a parent where many hundreds of this list’s readers have stood, standing in a place that a celibate like myself has stood too.  Is this a poem about parenting or about beauty, grief, fear, and joy?   Strong either/or questions always invite the same answer, “yes.”

Have a great weekend.

john st sj

Today’s post   “The writer” Richard Wilbur, 1921

A good friend read Wednesday poem “To a daughter leaving home” and wrote this to me:

“I also want to thank you for the marvelous poems and commentary.  I’m so glad to be a part of your blog.  Apropos of today’s poem ‘To A Daughter Leaving Home,’ the most moving poem I know on a similar theme is Richard Wilbur’s, The Writer.”

“The Writer”  Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

     richard wilbur  March 1, 1921  –


About Wilbur’s poems, one reviewer for The Washington Post said, “Throughout his career Wilbur has shown, within the compass of his classicism, enviable variety. His poems describe fountains and fire trucks, grasshoppers and toads, European cities and country pleasures. All of them are easy to read, while being suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection.”  {}

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