Monday, 20 September 2010

Leaving home

Further to big boys starting school I've just come across this by Linda Pastan. Excuse me, I think I may have something in my eye...

To A Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving
goodbye.


H/t TNC.

5 comments:

Nige said...

O yes indeed - I remember that feeling...

jonathan law said...

I sometimes wonder if parenthood does something to sap your critical faculties: and if so, whether this is entirely a bad thing. For example, I'm not sure that I'd rate this poem very highly if I didn't know whereof it speaks.

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

That's 'Walking Away' by the now barely remembered C.Day Lewis. Packs quite a punch, I'd imagine, to anyone with school-age children -- and especially at this time of year.

By the way, if the last line sounds a bit familiar that may be because it was used in publicity for the film The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2006). Which purely by coincidence (one imagines) starred a certain Daniel Day-Lewis. However, a quick look at the dates shows that he can't be the son in the poem -- that must be one by CD-L's first marriage.

Gaw said...

I sometimes wonder if parenthood does something to sap your critical faculties.

We burst into tears when we see cute puppies nowadays. My appreciation of Pastan's poem is as different as it could be now versus five years ago.

But not so much with the C Day Lewis. For me it's a bit too full of rationalising and explication. It's the glancing, only half-expected, epiphanic image that's really affecting:

...the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving
goodbye.


Not sure why.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Mmm, love the final image! One of those poems where, whilst reading it, I wonder what the point was of putting it in poetic stanzas but then it finally all comes right in the end.

Hey Skipper said...

In 11 months, but whose counting, my daughter will be gone.

Where did I leave that hanky?