(this is not finished yet)
I Don’t Know, I’ve Never Kippled
(to my son)
It’s good to be a man, my son, but better
to realise what it is that you are not
I hope you’ll realise, having read this letter
that genius engenders tons of rot:
Ars longa, vita brevis? Don’t be daft –
It doesn’t hold a candle as a rule;
No genius without penis? How we laughed!
These guys know nothing – send them back to school!
When you can make a shopping list with one hand
and type your magnum opus with the other
Nor think youself embarrassingly unmanned
to imitate the actions of a mother
If you can change a diarrhoeic nappy
and turn to put that nappy in the bin
and turn again to find your baby crappy
and clean it up, and never lose your grin:
If toddler no: 1 is screaming murder
as you get toddler no: 2 to sleep
If you’re not thinking that your life is purdah
If thoughts of drinking beer don’t make you weep:
If you sit down a sec, put on some Dylan
and in that second, lo! the baby wakes
and you can smile and still not prove a villain
You’ll have an inkling of what it takes:
If poems wake you up at 3 am
and, scrabbling blearily for pen and pad
you poke the baby’s eyes instead of them
and still the thought of children makes you glad:
If you can be content to be a man
And say of us, “ma semblable, ma soeur“
you’ll come to understand your nature’s span
How small the difference between him and her:
Not to define yourself is very freeing
– and, what is more, you’ll be a human being.
This is of course a parody of the well-known poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling.
There are aspects of Kipling I deplore, and most of them seem to be exhibited in this poem, hence the parody. When writing the poem I became aware of wanting to present my son with a positive way of being a man, and not being quite sure how to do this. Any thoughts?
PS The title is an answer to the question, “do you like Kipling?”
PPS Not 100% sure about the word “diarrhoeic”, though if it exists, I’m sure at least I’ve spelt it correctly.