Eli Siegel

(16 August 1902 - 8 November 1978 / Latvia)

Twenty-One Distichs About Children

Poem by Eli Siegel

Twenty-one Distichs about Children

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul's immensity.—WORDSWORTH

1. Bernice thinks a little.
Bernice is two months old; the world is new for her.
Ah, will her parents' angry world quite do for her?

2. Efficacious mother.
A child has clenched his fist; there's anger in his eye;
An efficacious mother finds out the reason why.

3. Janet is puzzled and not gratified.
Janet was near when Grandma Jane talked sharp to Mother Kate.
The little girl must be mixed up with all this love and hate.

4. Children don't want mothers to be far from them.
Children want their mothers to
Like the things that children do.

5. Weak mothers don't impress children.
When mothers cry and make a fuss,
Keen children think: They're bad for us.

6. Quarrelsome parents are just too much.
When husbands do not like their wives,
Disorderly are children's lives.

7. Children are not to be summed up.
A child may have a dirty face,
Who yet has thought of space—and space.

8. Mothers should not see their children's friends as rivals.
Wise Mary sees her children's friends
As perhaps having Mary's ends.

9. Resumption of previous subject.
When children see their parents quarrel,
They're very low in life's dark barrel.

10. Magnificence in Jackie.
A child has come—we know not whence—
In Jackie, there's magnificence.

11. The way a child is made.
Reality, so busy—look, has made
A child, like landscape: light and shade.

12. Mothers can meditate on fingers.
On an infant's little finger,
A mother's mind can linger, linger.

13. Time, by itself, does not make for knowledge.
The years may go, and parents may be far
From knowing, clearly, who their children are.

14. Alexander has failed.
He was a man of means; his name was Alexander;
His little Helen asked in vain; he failed to understand her.

15. Pomp discernible.
When children dash and children romp,
The world of motion shows its pomp.

16. Fine responsibility.
All parents have a fine responsibility:
To mingle for their children, truth and glee.

17. Fact unknown to aunt.
A boy has often clenched his fist,
As he some sour aunt has kissed.

18. Dreary catastrophe.
As much as little Alice was unknown,
She thought, I'm in myself and just my own.

19. Exclamation.
Oh, what an ethical mishap! —
A mental, ill-timed, peevish slap.

20. Shakespeare called on.
See Hamlet, and Miranda, too,
In three-day Edward, now so new.

21. What all children want.
A child will like it, when his parents chide
With depth and beauty; and with pride.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

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