Get Ready for a Truly Pleasurable (And Quick!) Cry


After arnhsybeki
I read this poem that came to my inbox yesterday, I wanted to stand up on the subway and shout,  “ATTENTION, EVERYONE. YOU WILL LOVE THIS POEM!

You just might feel the same. It was published on the site American Life in Poetry, which bills itself as “A project for newspapers by by Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the United States 2004-2006.”

The poem is by Carrie Shipers of Wisconsin, author of Family Resemblances: Poems (University of New Mexico Press).

Mother Talks Back to the Monster

by Carrie Shipers


Tonight, I dressed my son in astronaut pajamas,
kissed his forehead and tucked him in.
I turned on his night-light and looked for you
in the closet and under the bed. I told him

you were nowhere to be found, but I could smell
your breath, your musty fur. I remember
all your tricks: the jagged shadows on the wall,
click of your claws, the hand that hovered

just above my ankles if I left them exposed.
Since I became a parent I see danger everywhere—
unleashed dogs, sudden fevers, cereal
two days out of date. And even worse

than feeling so much fear is keeping it inside,
trying not to let my love become so tangled
with anxiety my son thinks they’re the same.
When he says he’s seen your tail or heard

your heavy step, I insist that you aren’t real.
Soon he’ll feel too old to tell me his bad dreams.
If you get lonely after he’s asleep, you can
always come downstairs. I’ll be sitting

at the kitchen table with the dishes
I should wash, crumbs I should wipe up.
We can drink hot tea and talk about
the future, how hard it is to be outgrown.


By the way, I just found this Anti-Anxiety Poem by Shipers, too. She is so great!

Monsters contemplating their fate. (Actually "Gonks," which seem to be the British equivalent of America's trolls. The fun ones. Not the ones on blogs.)

Monsters contemplating their fate. (Actually these are “Gonks,” which seem to have been the British equivalent of America’s trolls. The fun ones. Not the ones on blogs.)


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16 Responses to Get Ready for a Truly Pleasurable (And Quick!) Cry

  1. Sandy Rozek July 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    That is so totally delightful. It should be paired up with “Puff, the Magic Dragon.”

  2. Theresa July 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

    Being a parent you worry. Can anyone say that they won’t care if a little something bad happens? I doubt it! It part of life the worry but we shouldn’t let be in charge.

  3. lollipoplover July 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    “you were nowhere to be found, but I could smell
    your breath, your musty fur.”

    This is a lovely poem.
    But I’m reading this upstairs(and hiding from my children) while one of my rescues is burrowed under bed- stinky from rolling in something dead and wet-dog smell, he’s scared of the thunderstorm that just hit…Monster! For some reason, under the bed is his *safe space* when he gets spooked by storms, fireworks, or just overwhelmed. He’s been returned by 4 previous owners and we have no idea what he went through. I know much of what I worry about is unfounded fear, but like my dog, it sometimes hits like an instinct…to worry.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Warren July 13, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    You cannot equate caring if something bad happens with worrying about something bad happening. They are completely different. I care what happens with my three rug rats but I have never worried. Worry is not part of being a parent.

  5. Backroads July 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    Love it!

  6. acm July 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    I’m not really a worrier, but I think I’ve been watching the very slow leave-taking since my daughter first went down a mini-slide without my assistance. All that work helping them not need you around, helping them go. A killer final line to that poem.

  7. Theresa July 13, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    Hey you can care and worry! You worry about your kids because you care. If it was a stranger would you worry about them as much?

  8. JP Merzetti July 13, 2016 at 9:43 pm #

    Yes….isn’t that just the thing.
    All the old monsters, lonely old monsters –
    outgrown…..put away with worn out toys.
    (too often replaced by all the new ones,
    we never ever would have thought of, as kids….)

    Childhood memories (the right ones, the good ones)
    can call up
    the monsters we can actually miss.

  9. Warren July 13, 2016 at 9:47 pm #


    I never worried about my kids and I certainly wouldn’t worry about a stranger. Worry and caring are two completely different animals.
    Worry is based in fear and fear has no place in my life.

  10. Margot July 13, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    @Warren, Clearly you’re just so far out of the league of the mere humanoids amongst us! I think this poem speaks to the rest of us beautifully.
    Thanks for sharing, Lenore.

  11. hineata July 14, 2016 at 1:16 am #

    @Warren – quite seriously, because I have wondered recently about worry vs imagination, how vivid is your imagination? In other words, do you picture scenarios quite clearly and in ‘technicolor’, as it were, or do you generally just get on with things? Obviously you’re practical, running a tyre shop – did you find creative writing a breeze or a bit of a challenge at school?

    I’m wondering because I have kids who are more practically oriented at school who just seem to worry less/not at all, while those who are more the classic ‘writers and thinkers’ (left-brained, whatever ) generally also seem to be the worried. So – is it learnt behavior, or a different ‘core’ mindset/use of imagination?

  12. sexhysteria July 14, 2016 at 2:36 am #

    Monsters are not our friends, even though they do give some parents an excuse to keep children unnecessarily close.

  13. Warren July 14, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    I am a regular reader and love the old time radio shows which leaves a lot to the imagination.
    As for creative writing I enjoyed it and still enjoy it to the extent of making up bedtime and campfire stories for the younger kids in our circle.
    I think it is a balance between confidence and acceptance. Confidence in the job you did raising your kids to the point they are at and accepting those things you can’t control.
    For example sports. I give them the benefit of my experience but also accept there is an inherent risk of injury. I know the risk is present and there is nothing I can do to change that fact so why worry about it. It will either happen or it won’t.

  14. Warren July 14, 2016 at 8:16 am #

    Also it seems that lately people just seem to way over think everything. There is a lot to be said for just do it.

  15. Papilio July 14, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    I think you have to be a parent for this… Though it’s not the content really, what makes me frown is rather that this is called a poem and, sure, it looks like a poem and the wording is careful, but it doesn’t *sound* like one: no rhyme, no rhythm, no alliteration. I guess that’s essential for my personal ‘poem experience’…

  16. hineata July 14, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    @Waren – regarding the overthinking, so true! ☺. Interesting, thanks for that! I guess that’s probably the problem with some of my more overtly creative kids….they way over-think. Much of the problem with over-involved parents too, of course.