September, The First Day Of School
My child and I hold hands on the way to school,
And when I leave him at the first-grade door
He cries a little but is brave; he does
Let go. My selfish tears remind me how
I cried before that door a life ago.
I may have had a hard time letting go.
Each fall the children must endure together
What every child also endures alone:
Learning the alphabet, the integers,
Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff
So arbitrary, so peremptory,
That worlds invisible and visible
Bow down before it, as in Joseph's dream
The sheaves bowed down and then the stars bowed down
Before the dreaming of a little boy.
That dream got him such hatred of his brothers
As cost the greater part of life to mend,
And yet great kindness came of it in the end.
A school is where they grind the grain of thought,
And grind the children who must mind the thought.
It may be those two grindings are but one,
As from the alphabet come Shakespeare's Plays,
As from the integers comes Euler's Law,
As from the whole, inseperably, the lives,
The shrunken lives that have not been set free
By law or by poetic phantasy.
But may they be. My child has disappeared
Behind the schoolroom door. And should I live
To see his coming forth, a life away,
I know my hope, but do not know its form
Nor hope to know it. May the fathers he finds
Among his teachers have a care of him
More than his father could. How that will look
I do not know, I do not need to know.
Even our tears belong to ritual.
But may great kindness come of it in the end.
Howard Nemerov's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (September, The First Day Of School by Howard Nemerov )
- Gifts, Scott J. Shepard
- Courage, Scott J. Shepard
- For Those Who Starve, Scott J. Shepard
- Gorgeous Girls, Scott J. Shepard
- Your Wet Eyelashes, Eyelids, Bijay Kant Dubey
- Minor Keys, Scott J. Shepard
- My Forgotten Love, Gianni Pansensoy
- Social Reconstruction, Scott J. Shepard
- Rain, Chad Seagraves
- For the Taste, Scott J. Shepard
Poem of the Day
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
- Heather Burns
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)