Words to a Daughter

These verses are insurance, lest
I grow in age to be a pest,
the kind of cannibal who strives
to eat her children up alive.

We may avoid the bitter schism
born of a mutual egotism
that sunders nearly every other
gallant child from loving mother;

in which glad case, you’ve only got
with thankfulness, to scrap the lot
unless a wayward daughter, grown,
makes you devise some of your own …

Well, if it happens, you may find
You must be cruel to be kind;
whether I call down Heaven’s vengeance
or quaver in senile dependence,
although the prospect may seem gloomy,
Remember, dear, to read them to me:

‘Honour your Mother: make it known
You hope to call your soul your own.

Your days on earth being short and few,
Don’t let me live your life for you.

To want your freedom is no vice –
don’t bother with self-sacrifice.

When you marry, never borrow
my ambitions to your sorrow

nor let me fill you with false terrors –
live with your own, and not my errors.

I merely love you, claim no right
To play the part of parasite,

so if I whimper: ‘Never leave me!
I shall perish!’ don’t believe me.