Poem Series #7 (An oldie, but a goodie)


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 at my eyes’ sides.

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 they 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.









P.S. What does Punctuation represent in YOUR life?


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