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Poem for My Daughter
 
As you are young and beautiful
And full of chords immediately tuned
To what you are, insistently, this day, this year,
Now
And those chords struck violently;
Their echoes parenthesizing this you,   this young
Living, full-blossomed you --
Playing the complex music of yourself, hearing it as you
Thunder it out, pause,
Listen
And your echoes become superimposed upon yourself
As if your being were a doubly-exposed film of you . . .
 
You young,
You beautiful
You now,
Think so much,    small thought-lines cross your brow;
Gnaw a fingernail
About if being a woman and why
Entitles you to be a person also;
Or if today,   it would be better
Or easier
Not to be beautiful, and also a woman.
 
You think too much,    leaning to your mirror,
Searching in a book;
Imagining yourself comfortably back,   or not in some past century;
You worry about so much.
 
You, sea-color eyes,    fresh eyes,   black-lashed,  
Luminous and changeful eyes
Look often
As if you know too much of what you cannot stop
Of inevitability and of endings
For all of us.  For them,   long-gone and mute now,   yet,   here,
Those you knew, and know in books,   and love;
Those you find in family albums who are part-you -- they live in you.
Those whose voices you read with your own voice
Living in favorite pages
And in songs you play, your fingers
Your guitar; and sing -- their voices in your throat . . .
 
It's as if you are trying to memorize everything
That lived, or tried to live, or lives;
Everything you loved, or love, that is.
Now that you know
About things ending, and not always ending well, I mean.
So that you have the look of a person in perpetual prayer
Breathing out silent words,
Fervently,   your private comfort words
Repeat,   repeat.
 
Young woman devout
Beautiful and veiled
Telling the beads avidly,    her beads,
One by one,
Of living.
 
You seem to be kneeling to this,   and become dignified,
Biblical,
With something about you of places Yeats wrote about;
Mists,    and gray-green grasses stirred
And something stark -- a sudden fence of Robert Frost
Earth-colored against bright snow.
 
It's as if you were trying to memorize everything
In case it should all go away;
Memorize it the way you did when you were twelve,
Including commas, semi-colons and periods;
The Preamble to the Constitution,
The Presidents, in order;
 
Except,
This time
The teacher is yourself.
 
You think so much, and the power of yourself
Clamors
Like gongs against your eardrums,
Clanging
Until you run,
Frightened,
Into corners,
Holding your ears.
 
                                  -- Elinor S. Wikler
 
                                     Published in CHOICE Magazine
                                     1974