Saying Goodbye to Very Young Children

By John Updike 1932–2009 John Updike
They will not be the same next time. The sayings   
so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected.   
Their eyes will be more skeptical, plugged in   
the more securely to the worldly buzz   
of television, alphabet, and street talk,   
culture polluting their gazes' pure blue.   
It makes you see at last the value of   
those boring aunts and neighbors (their smells   
of summer sweat and cigarettes, their faces                        
like shapes of sky between shade-giving leaves)   
who knew you from the start, when you were zero,   
cooing their nothings before you could be bored   
or knew a name, not even your own, or how   
this world brave with hellos turns all goodbye.

John Updike, "Saying Goodbye to Very Young Children" from Americana and Other Poems. Copyright © 2001 by John Updike.  Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: Poetry (May 2000).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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May 2000
 John  Updike


An acclaimed and award-winning writer of fiction, essays, and reviews, John Updike has also been writing poetry for most of his life. Growing up in Pennsylvania, his early inspiration to be a writer came from watching his mother, an aspiring writer, submit her work to magazines. In an interview Updike stated, “I began as a writer of light verse, and have tried to carry over into my serious or lyric verse something of the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Growing Old, Coming of Age

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Elegy, Free Verse

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