The Parents Poem
It’s a good idea to figure what to do with parents.
One man I knew, after caring for them for years,
Led them across a busy street—two lines of traffic.
He started a lost colony for his parents.
He bought them big boots and pith helmets.
He sent his parents into battle. He dressed
Them in Austrian uniforms and gave them
Maps of Russia. No one ever saw them again.
Another man built a furnace and put his parents
Into it. He got some tincture, and tried to tran-
Substantiate his parents. It took a long time
And used a lot of heat, but there wasn’t much change.
A neighbor stored them in an empty cistern—the ladder
Is still sticking out. He took them to Kenya
And got his parents to take a walk with the elephants.
And they died all right . . . But by the end,
They knew for sure that they’d had children.
– Robert Bly, in the Fall 08 Paris Review.
This poem gets to me a bit – I almost wasn’t sure whether to put it up. The furnace, and all that. But I think if it gets under my skin this much, it must be good. It’s a good example of what a friend and I were discussing recently – how to write a poem about something depressing without writing a poem that depresses.