Mother's Poem
By Garrison Keillor

"Negligence in the name of love
Is just what we should have more of."
From We Are Still Married, (Viking Penguin, 1989)

Some mornings I get up at five.
With four to mother, one to wive,
I find the hours from light to dark
Are not enough to matriarch
With goals for matriarchy high
Among the apples of my eye.

This little girl with golden braid
Expects her toast a certain shade;
Her scrambled eggs must meet the test
Of excellence and gently rest
Upon the toast and not beside.
The little boy wants his eggs fried
Yet not be greasy on his lips,
Accompanied by bacon strips
Fried till they resemble bark.
The older boy takes his toast dark
And if his golden eggs should not
Be poached and served up steaming hot,
Two slightly liquid yellow bumps
Of yolk in solid white, he slumps
Down in the chair and has a mood.
The oldest girl eats rabbit food,
Berries, nuts, sunflower seeds,
Leaves and stems, and as she feeds,
She is displeased. It's all my fault.
I bought her seeds containing salt.
And worse--some juice containing sugar.
She glares as if I were a crook or,
Worse, a mother short on sense
And guilty of child negligence.

Negligence in the name of love
Is just what we should have more of.
Don't mother birds after some weeks
Of looking at those upturned beaks
Deliberately the food delay,
Hoping too hear their goslings say,
"What are these feathered floppy things
Attached to us? You think they're wings?"

This helpful trusty friendly Frau
Is starting her neglect right now.
The clothes you counted on to leap
Up while you were fast asleep
And wash themselves for you to wear
Have let you down. They just sat there.
The bicycle you thought would pick
Itself up when the rain got thick,
The homework you forgot to do,
Assuming I would tell you to--
My child, you have been betrayed.
The world you thought was neatly made,
Its corners tucked in like a sheet,
Is uncomposed and incomplete.
For years I carried on a hoax.
I made you think that scrambled yolks
Or poached or boiled, fried or shirred,
Are how they come out of the bird.
I made you think that big dust balls
Tiptoe softly down the halls
Out to the trash, that your wool skirt
(The one with emblems of dessert)
Took a cab down to the cleaner,
In answer to a court subpoena.

No matter what you have been told,
The rainbow holds no pot of gold,
Babies aren't found under rocks
Or in Sears Roebuck catalogues,
Those coins weren't put there by an elf--
The Tooth Fairy is me myself,
The Easter bunny's make-believe,
Cows don't talk on Christmas Eve,
The moon is not made of green cheese,
And eggs don't come the way you please,
Served by hens on silver trays,
And neither does much else these days.

--from We Are Still Married, Garrison Keillor, Viking Penguin 1989

Return to What Garrison Keillor Needs to Know About Children.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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