Parentheses: A Poem

In the spirit of our current unit on Poetry, I’ve taken some time to write a poem, which I hope will illustrate to my students alliteration, personification, and extended metaphor–amongst other figurative language and literary devices. I am now teaching 7th grade, and if there’s anything I’ve learned during my teaching thus far, it is that some of my students are naturally repulsed by the idea of poetry.

Another thing I’ve learned? Students usually want to learn about their teachers, whether they’ll admit it or not. So, I’ve taken a chance, the riskiest of risks, and I shall share my poem with my students this week. It is my hope that this may be the spark to an intriguing discussion and a great lead into creating their own personal poems.




When I was a child

I would wonder upon my mother’s face

And upon the parentheses that neatly embraced her smile.

My mother is old:

Parentheses are a mark of the old, I thought.


When I was a student in middle school

I was told that I used too many parentheses in my sentences.

(This was marked upon my page, in Red Pen,

By teachers who thought I was doing it all wrong.)

You don’t need parentheses here, they said,

Or else erase these words altogether!

(These words? They’re not needed, they wrote.)

But I was in the seventh grade,

And I felt I was being clever and mature,

So I continued my arrogant error.

(Parentheses are a mark of the old, I thought.)


When I was twenty-three,

Still young, yet old enough to proclaim myself an Adult,

All at once I remembered my previous opinion on parentheses:

I looked in the mirror, as I do every day,

But this time, as I marked my eyes with black eyeliner,

I noticed something new. I gasped, aghast.

(I am twenty-three, and was shocked you see.)

Crow’s feet had crawled to rest beside my eyes.

Delicate lines danced beneath and beside

My eyes as I smiled, frowned, smiled, frowned.

(Checking, double-checking, as if to be certain.)

There beside my lips, Parentheses had formed.

Their lines were not yet deep or indelible

But were there as I stared.


(And this is when I revised my thoughts.)

Parentheses are not a mark of the old, I thought.

Parentheses, and commas, and m-dashes

Draw Attention to a life well-lived.

(Parentheses prove that many times in life

We’ve taken the time to smile;

Commas prove our experiences are plenty,

And we can list and line them up beside one another;

M-dashes—well, these are the very best—

For with a pause we can revise ourselves mid-thought.)


When I am old,

And have laughed and lived,

I will earn my permanent parentheses,

And I will wear them proudly around my smile,

Just as my mother did

When I was a child.


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