Ave Maria

Mothers of America
                                     let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to   
it’s true that fresh air is good for the body
                                                                             but what about the soul   
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
                                                                                they won’t hate you   
they won’t criticize you they won’t know
                                                                         they’ll be in some glamorous country   
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

they may even be grateful to you
                                                            for their first sexual experience   
which only cost you a quarter
                                                       and didn’t upset the peaceful home   
they will know where candy bars come from
                                                                                 and gratuitous bags of popcorn   
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg   
near the Williamsburg Bridge
                                                       oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies   
they won’t know the difference
                                                         and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy   
and they’ll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
                                                                 or up in their room
                                                                                                     hating you
prematurely since you won’t have done anything horribly mean yet   
except keeping them from the darker joys
                                                                             it’s unforgivable the latter   
so don’t blame me if you won’t take this advice
                                                                                      and the family breaks up   
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young

Frank O’Hara, “Ave Maria” from Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O’Hara. Reprinted with the permission of City Lights Books, www.citylights.com/CLpub.html.
Source: The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1995)
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